Low antibiotic use in first year of life reduces risk of allergies

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 30, 2006

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Children prescribed antibiotics or given drugs to reduce a fever in the first year of life are more likely to develop allergic diseases such as asthma or eczema, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Researchers studied more than 4,000 children attending Steiner schools in five European countries and compared them with more than 2,000 regular school children.

Steiner schools are run by anthroposophic principles which defines health as a combination of mind, body and spiritual balance, and children who attend them are less likely to have taken these medications.

Previous studies had found that Steiner children had a lower rate of allergic disease. This study attempted to determine exactly what factors play a role in that phenomenon.

Kids who took antibiotics in the first year of life were 97% more likely as to develop nasal congestion as result of an allergic reaction as those who did not. The risk of asthma increased 179% and the risk of eczema increased 63%.

The link was less severe for anti-inflammatories, although it was still there. These drugs were linked to a 54% increased risk of asthma and a 32% increase in the chance of developing eczema. There was no increased risk of nasal allergies.

Researchers suggest that because the intestinal flora is vital to the development of a normal immune system, antibiotics in the first year of life might disrupt this process. They also suggested that additional research is needed to confirm causation and look for other lifestyle differences between these two groups of children that could lead to increased risk of immune system issues.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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