Acid reflux happens when food comes back up from the stomach and is spat or vomited out. It’s a common condition in babies and one that shouldn’t be too much cause for concern, though it can cause a baby discomfort (then there’s the clean up after a bout of projectile vomiting). In most cases, reflux goes away as the baby gets older – it’s unusual for it to persist past 18 months. With that said, acid reflux is sometimes treated with a medication that suppresses acid and limits reflux. Is that safe?
US researchers sought to find out. They thought that the acid suppressing properties may affect a person’s gut bacteria and perhaps increase the risk of babies developing an allergy. They looked at 12 years of data from babies enrolled in a patient register in the US, excluding those who were diagnosed with an allergic condition before they were six months old. They could see which babies were prescribed an an acid suppressor or antibiotic and which had developed an allergy, letting them draw associations between those elements.
In all, almost 800,000 children were included in the study. Almost 25,000 of them developed an allergy of some description, with peanut allergy the most common food allergy. The study found that kids given acid lowering medications were more than twice as likely to develop a food allergy, and babies prescribed antibiotics were also at a heightened risk though the effect wasn’t as pronounced.For both antibiotics and acid suppressors, the risks of developing asthma were also increased.
The study’s authors say that acid lowering drugs and antibiotics could increase the risk of allergies developing because they disrupt the normal gut bacteria, which may in turn influence the body’s immune system. They argue that doctors and parents should think carefully about giving a baby medications for acid reflux, and be prescribed only when clearly necessary.