Flu and Fever During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Autism

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • The cause of autism is not fully understood and in the past year, many different theories have been raised and researched as to different factors that may increase the chance of having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some of the theories include

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    Parents or siblings with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia

    A new study, published in the November 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics, show that women who have the flu or an extended fever during pregnancy may be at increased risk for having a child with autism.

    The study, conducted in Denmark, looked data on over 96,000 children born in Denmark between 1997 and 2003. Mothers were questioned about illnesses as well as medication, specifically antibiotics, used during pregnancy.

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    According to the study:

    • Mothers who had the flu were twice as likely to give birth to a child who was diagnosed with ASD by the age of 3
    • Mothers who had an extended fever (lasting for a week or more) were 3 times more likely to give birth to a child diagnosed with ASD by the age of 3
    • Mothers who used antibiotics had a slightly higher incident rate of having a child diagnosed with autism

    The study also showed several infections that had no influence on a child being diagnosed with ASD:

    • Respiratory infections and colds
    • Urinary tract infections
    • Sinus infections
    • Genital infections

    According to the authors of the study, further research would be needed as their study had limitations. A more controlled study could provide additional information on risk levels and how these infections increase the risk of ASD. They also stated that while there was an increased risk, 98 percent of mothers who did have the flu or fever gave birth to children not diagnosed with ASD.


    “Flu in Pregnancy Raises Autism Risk,” 2012, Nov 13, Staff Writer, Medical News Today

Published On: November 26, 2012