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Antibiotics for Newborns Linked to Wheezing

Posted by John on August 11th, 2008

Medical News Today reports that children who are given antibiotics during their first three months of life often wheeze at 15 months. However, researchers are not sure if antibiotics actually make children more prone to asthma since it’s difficult to distinguish between asthma and respiratory infections in young children.

Julian Crane, senior investigator at the Wellington Asthma Research Group in Wellington, New Zealand, explains, “Our results strongly suggest that the reason that some children who have been given antibiotics appear to develop asthma is because they had a chest infection and the symptoms of the chest infection in young children can be confused with the start of asthma. Antibiotics are given to treat the respiratory condition and rather than being a cause of asthma, as has been previously suggested, they are used for chest infections which can indicate an increased risk of asthma, or be mistaken for it.”

“Our data still leaves open the possibility that antibiotics may affect the development of eczema and itchy skin by four years and allergic hypersensitivity by 15 months,” says Crane.

How could antibiotics lead to the development of asthma and allergies?

Only until recent years, mainstream medicine viewed bacteria as dangerous invaders – carriers of disease. Now we know that there are many different kinds of bacteria, including “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria.

Rather than being invaders, bacteria are a natural part of the human body. In fact, your body contains more bacterial cells than human cells! Most of the bacteria reside in your gut, where they closely interact with the immune system. (Most of your immune system is in your gut, too.) “Intestinal flora” refers to all the microorganisms that live in your gut, including good bacteria, bad bacteria, fungal organisms, and sometimes parasites.

The good bacteria seem to keep the bad bacteria and fungi from growing out of control; it’s a delicate balance. But antibiotics cannot distinguish the good bacteria from the bad; antibiotics kill all bacteria. (That’s why it’s a good idea to eat yogurt or other probiotics after taking antibiotics – to replace the good bacteria.)

Since the intestinal flora is closely connected to the immune system, it’s not surprising that killing off the good bacteria with antibiotics would have a negative impact on the development of the immune system.

To be on the safe side, I would recommend that you avoid giving antibiotics to newborns and small children unless abosolutely necessary. Their immune systems need a chance to develop properly, so they can distinguish the good organisms from the bad. Never give a child antibiotics without doctor’s orders.

What else can you do to prevent your baby form getting asthma?

Recent research shows that eating an apple a day during pregnancy appears to reduce the chance of asthma in the child, while eating nuts during pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma.

You should also make sure that your nursery is environmentally healthy before your newborn arrives. Steven Hong, president of sylvane.com, recently appeared on a syndicated radio talk show to discuss this topic. See highlights of the interview at Creating a Healthy Nursery.

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