Antibiotic treatment within the first year of life is associated with an increase in food allergy diagnosis, suggests new research. The researchers found that children prescribed antibiotics within the first year of life were 1.21 times more likely to be diagnosed with food allergy than children who hadn’t received an antibiotic prescription.
“Overusing antibiotics invites more opportunity for side effects, including the potential development of food allergies, and can encourage antibacterial resistance,” said lead researcher Bryan Love from South Carolina College of Pharmacy in the US.
The study involved analysis of data from 1,504 cases of children with food allergies and 5,995 controls without food allergies in the US.
The study, published in the journal Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, showed that association between antibiotic prescription and development of food allergy was statistically significant, and the odds of a food allergy diagnosis increased with the number of antibiotic prescriptions a child received.
This research builds upon previous studies finding that normal gut flora is critical for developing the body’s tolerance to foreign proteins such as food.
Antibiotics are known to alter the composition of gut flora. The study’s results suggest a potential link between the rise in antibiotic prescriptions for young children and the rise in diagnosis of food allergies in children. “We need better diagnostic tools to help identify kids who truly need antibiotics,” Love said.