Certain medications may be putting your child at greater risk for allergies. According to a recent study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the use of antibiotics and acid-suppressive medications during infancy may be linked to the development of asthma and other allergic diseases.
“These medications are given frequently,” said lead author of the study Dr. Edward Mitre, a professor at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland. “In our study, we found that about 8% of all children received a prescription for acid-suppressive therapy.”
Acid-suppressive medications are prescribed to patients to help with acid reflux and other problems related to gastric acidity.
Although some children do suffer from severe acid reflux, Mitre says, many children may be regurgitating food as a part of natural development.
Researchers analyzed 792,130 children’s medical records in the U.S. Department of Defense’s TRICARE Military Health System. They compared the data of children prescribed acid-suppressive medications during their first six months including H2 blockers, also known as histamine-2 receptor antagonists, and antibiotics such as penicillin.
The data was analyzed for any allergy diagnosis from the age of six months or older. Researchers found that children who used H2 blockers during infancy were at greater risk of developing every type of allergic disease except for a seafood allergy.
Compared to the 85% of people allergic to poison ivy, children exposed to H2 blockers in infancy were more likely to be affected by dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, asthma, anaphylaxis, and other reactions.
What’s more, children who were prescribed H2 blockers for more than 60 days were 52% more likely to be diagnosed with an allergy compared to those prescribed an H2 blocker for 60 days or less.
Children who were prescribed antibiotics during infancy were also at a greater risk of developing asthma.
“I think it’s really important for pediatricians and other doctors to only give the acid-suppressant medicines and antibiotics for clear indications [that] would improve the child’s health,” said Dr. Bradley Becker of the Department of Pediatrics at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
The link between H2 blockers and allergies in children isn’t new. Previous studies have linked the microbiome (bacteria that lives in the stomach, skin, and respiratory system) is an essential part of the body’s immune system.
Medications such as antibiotics and acid-suppressors could alter the microbiome in children and cause allergies.
On the other hand, early exposure to potential allergens and bacteria may give children a leg up against allergic diseases. Approximately 95% of infants suck their thumb out of reflex, a habit which most children grow out of by the age of three.
However, in that amount of time, the exposure to bacteria on the child’s hand may actually make them less likely to develop allergies later in life.
Similarly, the more children play outside and involve themselves with their environment and the bacteria within it, the stronger their immune system becomes. Up to 37% of families report that vacations make them happy. As it turns out, they may also make your child healthier.
“While we are still far from elucidating exactly how this shift in the natural gut bacteria affecting our immune system in certain individuals,” said Dr. Sarena Sawlani, the medical director of Chicago Allergy and Asthma, “this study should bolster the ongoing efforts to better understand the mechanism of this unique process.”