• Health & Wellness

    Antibiotics Influence Childhood Weight Gain

little girl taking medicine, antibiotic or cough syrup

Kids who take antibiotics during childhood gain weight faster than those who do not, according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research. Still, antibiotics are necessary in some cases.

The study examined the medical records of 163,820 children between 3 and 18 years old to find the association between antibiotic prescriptions and body weight and height. Results, published in the International Journal of Obesity, show children at age 15 who had been prescribed antibiotics seven or more times in their childhood weighed about 3 pounds more than those who did not take the medicines.

Researchers say the findings may be related to the effect of antibiotics on the bacteria in the intestines that affect digestion and absorption of food.

“These findings may result in a decrease in requests by parents for antibiotic prescriptions for their children,” says Mayo Clinic pediatric endocrinologist Seema Kumar, M.D..

Dr. Kumar says it's important to know when antibiotics are appropriate. Most children with viral illnesses do not need them. On the other hand, many bacterial illnesses require antibiotics.

“This study does not suggest children should not receive antibiotics at all,” Dr. Kumar cautions. “Parents should leave it up to their providers to determine if antibiotics are needed when a child is sick.”

Read more from Mayo Clinic on the difference between bacterial and viral illnesses.

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