Next time your head throbs from a bad cold, you might think twice about reaching for aspirin or acetaminophen. A new study by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene & Public Health and two research centers in Australia shows that these common painkillers actually suppress the body's immune system.
Hopkins epidemiologist Neil Graham believes that the drugs may slow down cells called macrophages that stimulate the production of antibodies against infection. For otherwise healthy adults, he says, the worst that probably happens is increased nasal congestion and colds that last a few extra days. But Graham worries that the consequences are more serious for children, especially those in poor health. "The drugs may make them more at risk for pneumonia and bacterial infections in the ear or sinus," he explains.