Antibiotics may increase eczema risk in children, study reveals

21 Jun 2013 12:41:35.233
PA 209/13
Use of antibiotics in early life may increase the risk of developing eczema by up to 40 per cent, according to a new study involving researchers from The University of Nottingham, in the British Journal of Dermatology.

The research also found that each additional course of antibiotics further raised the risk of eczema by seven per cent.

The researchers, from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, The University of Nottingham, King’s College London, and the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, reviewed existing data from 20 separate studies that explored the link between antibiotic exposure prenatally and in the first year of life, and the subsequent development of eczema. They also examined whether the number of antibiotic courses affected the chances of developing the disease.
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They found that children with eczema are more likely to have been treated with antibiotics in the first year of life, but not prenatally.

“One potential explanation is that broad-spectrum antibiotics alter the gut microflora and that this in turn affects the maturing immune system in a way that promotes allergic disease development,” said one of the study authors Dr Teresa Tsakok of Guy’s and St Thomas.’

Dr Tricia McKeever, Associate Professor & Reader in Epidemiology and Medical Statistics at The University of Nottingham said: “The study is a systematic review and meta-analyses which brings together all available evidence, and has shown that overall, children who used antibiotics post-natally were at a 41 per cent increased risk of eczema and each additional dose of antibiotics increased the risk of eczema by seven per cent.”

Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists said: “Eczema is our most common skin disease, affecting one in every five children in the UK at some stage and causing a significant burden to the patient and the health service. Allergic diseases including eczema have increased over past decades, particularly for children in high income countries, but the causes for this are not fully understood. The evidence is not conclusive and the researchers are not suggesting that parents should withhold antibiotics from children when doctors feel such treatment is necessary, but studies like this give an insight into possible avoidable causes and may help to guide medical practice.”

The researchers added a note of caution to their findings, explaining that use of antibiotics may in fact be a consequence of an increased occurrence of infections in children with eczema. Further research is needed that carefully examines the sequence of events between the age antibiotics are prescribed and the onset of eczema development.


More information is available from Nina Goad or Deborah Mason, British Association of Dermatologists on +44 (0)207 391 6094/6355,,; or Charlotte Anscombe, Media Relations Manager & Campaign Manager, Marketing, Communications & Recruitment, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 748 4417,

To speak to Dr Carsten Flohr, please call the British Association of Dermatologists on +44 (0)207 391 6355 / 6094 or Guy’s and St Thomas’ press office on +44 (0)207 188 5577. To speak to Dr Teresa Tsakok, please call the British Association of Dermatologists.

The British Association of Dermatologists is the central association of practising UK dermatologists. Our aim is to continually improve the treatment and understanding of skin disease. For further information about the charity, visit . Wiley-Blackwell, created in February 2007 by merging Blackwell Publishing with Wiley's Global Scientific, Technical, and Medical business, is now one of the world's foremost academic and professional publishers and the largest society publisher. With a combined list of more than 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal, this new business sets the standard for publishing in the life and physical sciences, medicine and allied health, engineering, humanities and social sciences. For more information visit

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

If using this information, please ensure you mention that the study is being released in the British Journal of Dermatology, the official publication of the British Association of Dermatologists. Study details: Does early life exposure to antibiotics increase the risk of eczema? A systematic review
T. Tsakok1; T.M. McKeever2, L. Yeo3, C. Flohr4
1 Academic Clinical Fellow, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
2 Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham, City Hospital, Nottingham, UK
3 Department of Dermatology, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen, UK
4 Department of Paediatric Dermatology, St John’s Institute of Dermatology, Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, London, UK
Print publication date TBC; Draft, unedited version due to appear in Accepted Articles section online on 24.06.2013. DOI: available on request on publication. Articles in the BJD can be viewed online:

  Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

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