According to a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, some kids are more likely to have autism or delayed development if their mothers had a fever during their pregnancies. This was based on data from a large case control investigation called Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment or CHARGE.
In the study, researchers encountered 538 children with autism, 163 children with development delays, and 421 normally growing children from ages two to five. Apparently, mothers who have children with autism were 2.12 times more likely to report having had a fever during pregnancy compared to mothers with regular children. On the other hand, mothers whose children have delayed development were 2.5 times more likely to report having been sick with a fever than mothers whose kids don’t have any development issues. Meanwhile, mothers who took anti-fever medications didn’t seem to be affected.
Fever, according to researchers, is an inflammatory response to bacteria or viruses. To help the body heal itself, pro-inflammatory cytokines from white blood cells are released into the bloodstream. Unfortunately, some of the cytokines are able to cross over the placenta and reach the central nervous system, which could then affect brain development.
When the fever starts to set in, Ousseny Zerbo, lead author of the study and postdoctoral researcher with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, suggests that pregnant women should take “anti-pyretic medications and seek medical attention if their fever persists."
(Photo by Erik Langner via Flickr Creative Commons)