In Parenting Magazine (November, 2007) there was a short blurb on antibiotic use which stated, “Babies who take more than four course of [antibiotics] during their first year are one and a half times more likely to develop asthma by age 7, according to a new study.” (p. 45)
My first reaction was, “Oh No!!! Becca has had exactly four courses of antibiotics!” and I began to panic that Becca was now destined to be asthmatic. I then reread the blurb and thought, “What study? Who did this? Who’s to say that the reason the children have asthma is because they tended to be sick more than other children? So maybe the antibiotics weren’t really the cause of the asthma.”
At Becca’s next pediatrician’s visit, I asked my doctor for his reaction to the study. His response was that he was less concerned about her antibiotic use then the reason she needed the antibiotics (strep throat, urinary tract infection and ear infection). He felt that these were ‘normal’ childhood illnesses and weren’t anything to be worried about. In general, Becca was a fairly healthy child.
I left feeling reassured and even a little smug. I thought that the Parenting Magazine blurb was another example of how easy it can be to place an unrelated meaning to statistics. Before I posted my smug reaction on this blog, I thought I might research this study a little further.
When I located the original study, “Increased Risk of Childhood Asthma From Antibiotic Use in Early Life”, I began to feel a little unnerved again. It was published in the June, 2007 issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) and included 13,116 children. Uh-Oh, it was feeling a little harder to dismiss. I had never heard of CHEST but it sounded impressive and 13,000 children was a pretty significant study.
I then read a few articles explaining the study, (New York Times Article: “Antibiotic Use in First Year May Increase Asthma Risk” and
“those who lived with no dog in the house had twice the risk of asthma compared with those who lived with one.”
We have two cats. Does that count?
Now that Becca has taken 5 doses of antibiotics (double ear infection over Christmas), I continue to be worried that this has increased her risk for asthma. I also find that I question my pediatrician about my options instead of just blindly accepting the prescription. On the other hand, I feel that she needed the antibiotics and am not sure what other options I had.
Below are the links I used to find the article:
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/560029_print full article