A new study has found a risk factor associated with antibiotics use in young children. Exposure to antibiotics in the first year of life has been found to increase the risk of food allergy later in life, says the University of South Carolina.

The researchers analyzed South Carolina Medicaid administrative data from 2007 to 2009 and found 1,504 cases of children with food allergies and 5,995 controls without food allergies.

The researchers found that children prescribed antibiotics within the first year of life were 1.21 times more likely to be diagnosed with a food allergy than children who hadn’t received an antibiotic prescription.

This statistically significant finding, the researchers say, was compounded as children increased the number of prescriptions taken for antibiotics, growing to 1.31 times with three prescriptions and up to 1.64 times with five. Broad-spectrum therapies such as sulfonamide and cephalosporin antibiotics had the highest risk factors.

The study was published in Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. The research builds on previous findings that normal gut flora is critical to building tolerances to foreign proteins such as food. Antibiotics alter gut flora and the average child in the U.S. between ages three months to three years is prescribed 2.2 antimicrobial prescriptions per year.

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