giving antacids or antibiotics to babies increases risk of childhood allergies and asthma

Fussy babies who spit up frequently are often given antacids like Zantac or Pepcid, and it is very common to give babies antibiotics. But, though both practices are common and thought of as harmless, are they really?

A new study says no: they are far from harmless.

The massive new study followed 792,130 babies for 4.6 years to see if there was any relationship between being having been given antacids or antibiotics in the first 6 months of life and later developing allergic diseases in childhood. Allergic diseases included food allergies, anaphylaxis, eczema, hay fever, allergic conjunctivitis, urticaria, contact dermatitis, medication allergy, or other allergy.

The researchers looked at histamine-2 receptor antagonist and proton pump inhibitor antacids. Infants who were given histamine-2 receptor antagonist during the first 6 months of their lives were 118% more likely to develop food allergies as children, 70% more likely to develop medication allergies, 51% more likely to develop anaphylaxis, 50% more likely to develop hay fever, and 25% more likely to develop asthma.

For proton pump inhibitors, the odds went up by 159% for food allergies, 80% for medication allergies, 45% for anaphylaxis, 44% for hay fever, and 41% for asthma.

For antibiotics, the risk of developing these allergic conditions in childhood went up by 109% for asthma, by 75% for hay fever, by 51% for anaphylaxis and by 42% for allergic conjunctivitis.

The researchers say that the problem may be due to the drugs disrupting the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Giving your infant common antacids or antibiotics, then, is not harmless at all. The potential short term solution now can lead to allergic childhood diseases later.

JAMA Pediatr 2018;doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.0315

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