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Was it Acetaminophen, Not Swine Flu, That Killed This Boy?

By genebean - Posted on 28 October 2009

On October 27, 13-year-old hockey player Evan Frustaglio died, allegedly from the H1N1 swine flu.

Well, you might want to take a look at this. Reye's Syndrome has been implicated in the deaths of teenagers who take fever-reducing medications for viral illnesses. Death is common, often within a few days, unless diagnosed and treated successfully [1]. The true incidence of Reye's Syndrome may be higher than the number of reported cases indicates [2].

According to Wikipedia [ ] :

  • Reye's syndrome is potentially fatal
  • has been associated with aspirin consumption by children with viral illness
  • some have claimed that acetaminophen (paracetamol) is a greater risk
  • current advice in the United Kingdom... is that aspirin should not be given to those under the age of 16 years

Now look at this article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information : [ ]

  • When promoting paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen it would be wise not to conceal their side effects — for example, the hepatotoxicity of paracetamol, which can occur even at minor overdoses given during a few days.

What is "hepatotoxicity"? Let's now go back to Wikipedia [ ] :

  • Reports of death from acute hepatotoxicity (from acetaminophen) have been reported to be from as low as 2.5 grams over a 24 hour period

This may have been the case for this boy. His symptoms included vomiting [3], one of the symptoms of Reye's Syndrome. Also, he was taking Tylenol [4], whose active ingredient is acetaminophen. Just how much Tylenol did he take? Did he die from the swine flu or from liver toxicity?

Here's another possibility : when your immune system is down, you can die from even a cold. Strenous physical activity that overstresses the body can weaken the immune system. Fevers are important in fighting viruses (higher body temperature prevents virus telomeres from binding) and fever-reducing medication should NOT be used as first response to fevers. The 13-year-old boy was probably physically overstressed from his hockey tournament, and the fever-reducing medication (Tylenol) that he took did not help. He had had a bath and was found laying on the floor -- was it a cold bath that further impeded his immune response?

Let me add by saying that people are bound to be confused by labels such as Reye's Syndrome. It's really not that complicated, this is just medicalspeak for when the "experts" don't want deal with the simple fact that Tylenol could actually be a common source of deaths (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, anyone?). Don't be misled -- this fancy label is NOT the cause, but just a collection of symptoms. The known signs (causes, in my opinion) for Reye's Syndrome are : (1) a viral illness or upper respiratory infection, and (2) fever-lowering medication [5]. Could either or both of these equations be true?

  • (infant/child/teenager) + (viral attack) + (toxic medications) --> (liver toxicity) --> DEATH
  • (infant/child/teenager) + (viral attack) + (fever-lowering medications) --> (fever prevented) --> (hindered immune response) --> DEATH

Is the number of such cases obscured by misdiagnosis and underreporting?

More questions need to be asked before we jump the gun and conclude that "he died from the swine flu" and form conclusions like "the swine flu kills even healthy teenagers".

References :

  1. NINDS Reye's Syndrome Information Page
    [ ]
  2. Medical Encyclopedia: Reye's Syndrome
    [ ]
  3. H1N1 kills 13-year-old Toronto boy; dad urges parents to watch kids carefully
    [ ]
  4. Toronto Teenage Hockey Player Dies From Swine Flu
    [ ]
  5. Facts You Need to Know About Reye's Syndrome
    [ ]

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