Jan
18
2020

Antibiotics In Children Can Trigger Allergies And Asthma Later In Life

Whoever treats a child’s cold must know that antibiotics in children can trigger allergies and asthma later in life. This is what a study released on Dec. 20, 2019 has shown. The researchers examined records of 798,426 children seen at the Department of Defense TRICARE health care program. They were born between 2001 and 2013. The physicians examined the children later again for allergies. The more antibiotics the children received in childhood, the more severe the youngster’s allergies were later in life.

More details about the study

The researchers found that different antibiotic types had different risks to cause allergic reactions later in life.

  • Penicillin: 1.3-fold risk
  • Penicillin with a β-lactamase inhibitor: 1.21-fold risk
  • Macrolides: 1.28-fold risk)
  • Cephalosporins: 1.19-fold risk
  • Sulfonamides: 1.06-fold risk

The type of allergies that the children developed later in life were food allergies, anaphylaxis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis or contact dermatitis. The researchers stressed that their finding indicated an association between taking antibiotics and developing allergies later. It was not a causal relationship.

Food allergies in more detail

Anaphylaxis

This allergic condition is an emergency and requires immediate medical attention. It can occur when the body overreacts to peanuts or penicillin. It can occur with foods, and the reaction is sudden and severe. The symptoms may include wheezing, shortness of breath, a cough or tightness in the throat. The blood pressure may drop leading to light-headedness and passing out. The skin may show hives, swelling and a rash. The digestive symptoms may be nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms may involve itching eyes, headaches, anxiety and a feeling of impending doom.

Asthma

Airborne grass and tree pollens, mold spores and dust, but also peanuts and other strong allergens can trigger an asthma attack. The symptoms can be shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest, trouble falling asleep because of coughing and being short of breath.

Atopic dermatitis (eczema)

Often atopic dermatitis starts below the age of 5 and can last until late adolescence or adulthood. The symptoms can be dry skin, itching red patches of skin and thickened scaly skin. Allergic contact dermatitis is common in patients with atopic dermatitis.

Allergic rhinitis

People who suffer from allergic rhinitis are sensitized to particles in the air like grass and tree pollen, molds or cigarette fumes. They develop a stuffy nose, itching and watery eyes, sneezing and swelling around the eye lids. An allergist can do skin scratch tests to find out what the patient is allergic to. Subsequently, if the allergies are strong, the allergist may decide to start desensitization with allergy shots.

Allergic conjunctivitis

A person who is allergic to pollen and mold spores will react to this when in contact with it and often develop allergic conjunctivitis. An eye inflammation will develop within a few minutes leading to swelling of the conjunctiva around the eye ball. The eyes end up looking red, itching, burning and being watery.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis develops when your body brushes against a substance that your body has been previously sensitized to. One example is poison ivy contact dermatitis. But many other substances can cause similar reactions: solvents, shampoos, permanent wave solutions and rubbing alcohol. In addition, plants, bleach and detergents, fertilizers, pesticides and airborne substances (sawdust, dust from woollen materials) can also do the same.

The gut biome

Dr. Purvi Parikh is an allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Health in New York. She was not involved in the study, but commented to it as follows: “One reason why there might be an association is because our microbiome, specifically in our gut, plays a large role in our immune systems. Antibiotics are known to not only kill the bacteria that are causing an infection, but also ‘good’ bacteria our immune system needs to protect us from developing allergic or autoimmune diseases.”

Treat bacterial infections with antibiotics when needed

She went on to say: “Overall, parents should know that this study shows an association but not necessarily cause and effect. So, if a child truly needs an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, they should not withhold it due to fear of allergic disease. However, on that same note, one should not over use antibiotics if not needed – for a virus or a cold – as there may be long-term consequences from over use.”

Antibiotics In Children Can Trigger Allergies And Asthma Later In Life

Antibiotics In Children Can Trigger Allergies And Asthma Later In Life

Conclusion

A new study showed that antibiotics can cause allergies and asthma later in life. The reason seems to be that our gut bacteria react to the antibiotics and the gut dysbiosis (disbalance of the gut bacteria) persists, when the antibiotics have been discontinued. The immune system can then react in ways that are detrimental to the child and adolescent. Anaphylaxis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis or contact dermatitis are all different manifestations of allergies that can develop later in life. At this point we only know that there is an association between these allergic manifestations and the antibiotic use in childhood. More clinical trials will need to shed a light on what causes allergies in some children, but not in others.

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