Flu During Pregnancy Doubles Autism Risk?

One out of every 88 kids born in the U.S.A. has autism. Although we still don’t know what causes it, a recent study from Denmark may shed some light on the subject. Researchers who conducted an exploratory study with 100,000 women there found that flu during pregnancy doubled the risk of a woman having a child with autism. For those with a fever lasting 7 days, the risk is tripled.

As bad as it sounds, the actual incidence of autism is still extremely low. Since only 1% of babies born in the U.S. are affected,  flu or fever takes the odds from 1% to 2% or 3%.

Even so, it’s still very important to remember that there are things a pregnant woman can do to protect herself from increasing her odds. Number one is to get the flu vaccine injection (not the nasal spray which can be dangerous during pregnancy).

By doing this one simple thing, she not only protects herself but her baby, too. The flu vaccine will keep baby safe for the first six months of life when he or she is too young to be immunized. Other common sense precautions include avoiding large crowds or people who are ill and making sure to practice good hygiene. This, of course, includes washing hands frequently, and avoiding touching the eyes and mouth.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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