Antibiotics and Asthma
There is a growing body of literature supporting the concept that the overuse of antibiotics among children is related to the increase in allergic asthma. Frequently, a medical research article seems to contradict everything that is logical about medical care. It is important to not let one or even several articles change your mind about medicines or vitamins.
A New Theory
A theory called “The Hygeine Hypothesis” is mentioned in my book, Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution (Marlowe 2006). The gist of The Hygeine Hypothesis is that frequent doses of antibiotics in children can alter the immune system away from fighting infections, and direct the immune system to go in the direction of allergic inflammation.
This can result in a greater incidence of allergic conditions, such as asthma, skin allergies and nasal diseases. In the American Journal of Epidemiology on December 29th, 2010, researchers at the Yale Public School of Health studied 1401 children between the years 2003 and 2007. They found that children with early antibiotic exposure had an increased risk for asthma – even in children where there was no family history of asthma.
The main recommendation of the researchers is a more “judicious use of antibiotics in infants, especially the broader spectrum antibiotics.” This makes sense. Of course, all parents are distraught when their child is sick, especially with ear infections that can be extremely painful. However, in many cases, the cause is viral and the antibiotics are not truly effective. The mainstay is supportive care and careful observation.
This winter many children will experience runny noses, coughing and sometimes more painful sore throats and ear infections. Please see your doctor for a careful examination – don’t just call up and ask for antibiotics, even if you are the patient.
An infection or something else?
And please remember, if your child is constantly coughing, it may not be recurrent infections, but more likely bronchospasm. Bronchospasm is an early sign of asthma and is treated totally different than a cold. In fact, I just had a patient that has asthma and self-treated with an over-the-counter cough medicine for colds and got worse: the medicine had an expectorant component, which actually makes you cough more. This is the worst thing for someone with bronchospasm or asthma. As an Asthma specialist, I devote a whole chapter in my book on the two components of asthma: bronchospasm and inflammation – and how they should be treated.
My last key point, if you or your child has repeated colds or coughing, is to see a specialist. In my office we do allergy testing to make sure a common allergen, such as dust or your pet, is not the cause of your asthma. The good news with allergies is that they are reversible in many cases. There are certain environmental controls that can be applied: air purifiers, encasing mattresses and pillows in hypoallergenic covers… and for those allergic children or adults who suffer, we use allergy drops, instead of shots, to build up your immune system to be more resistant to developing chronic symptoms.
Call us for more information.