Children taking common pain relievers may be at higher risk for kidney damage, a U.S. study finds.

The researchers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, perhaps the most common avoidable risk for acute kidney failure in children. The drugs are given to relieve pain and fever.

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Doctors called the use of NSAIDs an avoidable cause of acute kidney injury in children. (Bruno Domingos/Reuters)

In Friday's online issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, Dr. Jason Misurac of Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis said NSAID use accounted for 27 cases or nearly three per cent of kidney damage they reviewed at a local children's hospital.

The percentage is small but four of the preschoolers needed dialysis and at least seven suffered permanent kidney damage.

The researchers called the study the largest to date pointing to use of NSAIDs as an avoidable cause of acute kidney injury in children, which in some cases needs to be monitored for years.

Over 11½ years, they found 1,015 cases of children and teens who'd been treated for acute kidney injury from any cause.  Kidney injuries that could have been caused by other factors such as congenital heart disease were excluded.

Most children who developed kidney damage were previously healthy, had taken the recommended dose for an average of four days.

Many of the patients came to hospital with an acute illness that caused dehydration, which tends to compound damage to the kidneys, the researchers said.

The most common NSAID given was ibuprofen (67 per cent) followed by naproxen (11 per cent.)

They said the results lead to questions of whether kidney function tests should be routinely ordered before giving NSAIDs in hospital.

Dr. Felix Ramirez-Seijas, director of pediatric nephrology at Miami Children's Hospital, said NSAIDs are "overused and abused, both by doctors and patients."

Ramirez-Seijas suggested to HealthDay News that most fevers in children outside of hospital should not be treated, adding that parents should make sure a child is well hydrated if they are going to give NSAIDs.