STUDY: Babies, toddlers who take antibiotics may develop into asthma and allergies later on
A new study from the BMJ on Gut has come out that babies and toddlers taking antibiotics may develop asthma and allergies as they grow up. The findings are begging the question: why are antibiotics not working anymore?
What are antibiotics and why they help
Antibiotics are medicines that attack bad bacteria in the body. In most instances they are lifesaving and can help prevent both children and adults alike from serious illnesses and infections.
Our bodies are also full of bacteria, good ones. These bacteria help our bodies digest food for example, our growth and immunity. So if antibiotics are good for us, how is it now causing allergies, asthma and obesity?
Good goes bad
It seems that antibiotics are “bad” when it is disrupting our natural bacteria makeup that we get from birth. Harvard Health says about the study, “They looked at whether they [babies] were given antibiotics during the first two years of life. They also looked at whether they were given either of two medications used to decrease stomach acid, commonly prescribed to treat stomach reflux in babies.” It allows the bacteria from the mouth and nose that are “killed” with stomach acid to thrive. This moves to the intestines, and “crowd out other species”, also killing bacteria themselves. So basically if given too much antibiotics, this may alter the bacteria that we naturally have that are there to actually help us rather than hurt us.
These good bacteria help us absorb nutrients. These bacteria also help us break down food in the intestines. These good bacteria also help protect the digestive system from harmful pathogens.
This study shows that if a toddler or baby takes multiple doses of antibiotics, it may be harmful. The study shows that they are prone to have asthma, allergies, be more overweight, and even ADHD, and celiac disease for the girls. Quoting one of the study’s author Nathan LeBrasseur, “These findings offer the opportunity to target future research to determine more reliable and safer approaches to timing, dosing and types of antibiotics for children in this age group.” When studying penicillin, which is one of the most common antibiotics that is given, when administered, was linked to “increased risk for asthma and overweight in both sexes, celiac disease and ADHD in girls, and obesity in boys, whereas they were associated with reduced risk for autism in girls.”
These are the good bacteria that is needed in development for a proper immune system, neural development metabolism and body composition. In other words, the antibiotics does not see the difference between the “good” and the “bad” bacteria.
Dr. Claire McCarthy from Harvard Health Publishing says, “As I said before, antibiotics can be lifesaving, and messing with the bacteria in our bodies is a risk absolutely worth taking — sometimes.” She adds that antibiotics are put in too many prescriptions. Some infections like ear infections, can get better without antibiotics. There are even times that we tend to use antibiotic longer than we should.
So what can parents do?
Dr. Claire McCarthy adds that the doctors need to be aware of these findings. They are the ones that are writing the prescriptions. It would be good to consult with your pediatrician about the timing and dosage of the antibiotic of your child. Pediatrician and author Dr. Jennifer Shu, says, “Minimizing antibiotic use can be helpful to prevent antibiotic resistance, but there may be a role in preserving the microbiome based on this study”. She continues, “Of course, further studies would be needed to corroborate or refute these findings,” because it’s unclear if the study’s findings are based on “correlation or causation.”
For now, just keep an open dialogue with your pediatrician or health provider. Make sure that you understand what these new findings mean, but also, there is no need to unnecessarily panic. Antibiotics can still be good. But there are still ways that can help your child recover from illnesses, through antibiotic or not.