Medicines for children that include paracetamol could be responsible for asthma and hay fever in later life, according to new research.

A major new study of more than 200,000 youngsters found that those who had been given paracetamol more than once a month as infants were three times as likely to develop breathing problems by the age of seven.

Kids given paracetamol in their first year were 46% more likely to develop asthma, while a link was also found between use of the drug and other conditions including hay fever and eczema.

The study, published in the Lancet, said increased rates of asthma could in part be due to more frequent use of paracetamol but backed WHO guidelines suggesting that occasional use is appropriate for treating high fevers.