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A new study from Denmark found that mothers who reported having the flu during pregnancy were at least twice as likely to have a child with autism compared with those who did not report having the flu, NBC News reports. In addition, "Those who had a fever lasting a week or longer — perhaps caused by the flu or maybe by something else — were three times as likely to have an autistic child," according to the NBC News report.
With flu season in full force, these findings can sound alarming, but the report emphasizes that these results (published in the journal Pediatrics) need further research.
But the new study "fits in with a mother's immune system during pregnancy that affects the developing child's brain," NBC News reports.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took extra steps in response to the study in reassuring women that this "doesn't mean the infection with an influenza virus causes autism and women should not panic if they become ill," as quoted in the NBC News article.
Despite these concerns, the overall message for moms-to-be remains the same: If you have a fever or the flu, call your doctor. It's better to err on the side of caution when it comes to such illnesses. Do not let fevers linger. Fevers can be treated with Tylenol safely in expectant women.
And of course, pregnant women are strongly urged to get flu shots, which will protect them and the baby for the first six months after birth.