A study conducted at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan shows that children given antibiotics in their first six months of life have an increased risk of allergies to ragweed, pets, grass, and dust mites. They also have an increased risk of asthma. Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D., is the study’s lead author and senior research epidemiologist for Henry Ford’s Department of Biostatistics & Research Epidemiology. She says that she is not against children receiving antibiotics but believes that prudence is necessary before prescribing them for children at such an early age. Many antibiotics have been prescribed unnecessarily, especially for viral infections like colds and the flu when they would have no effect anyway. Antibiotics may alter the immune system by affecting the GI tract.
Data was collected on 448 children from before birth until seven years of age. Almost half (49%) of the children received antibiotics within the first six months of life. Children given antibiotics once in the first six months of life were 1.5 times more likely to suffer from allergies and 2.5 times more likely to have asthma than children who were not given antibiotics. If the mother had a history of allergies, the children given antibiotics were twice as likely to develop allergies as the non-antibiotic group. If the child was breastfed and given antibiotics, the chance of developing allergies was four times greater than in the non-antibiotic group. Breastfeeding did not increase the incidence of asthma.
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