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Antacid use in pregnancy may increase child asthma risk

December 16, 2008 |  9:16 am

Antacid1Heartburn goes hand in hand with pregnancy. However, a new study warns that antacid use in pregnancy may increase a child's risk for asthma.

The study, published online today in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy, tracked 585,000 children born in Sweden. Using various registries, the researchers were able to obtain information on whether the mothers took antacids during pregnancy, had any history of allergy and whether their children were ever hospitalized for allergic disorders or received a prescription for allergies or asthma. They found that 1% of the children had been exposed to acid suppression medications during pregnancy and more than 5% had received a diagnosis of allergies or asthma. The mother's use of antacids was linked to a 43% greater likelihood that a child would have an allergic condition, with asthma being the most common. The increased asthma risk in the child was highest among mothers with no history of allergies who took antacids during pregnancy.

Although this is the first study to link antacid use in pregnancy to an increased asthma risk in children, other studies have hinted at a relationship. Previous research has shown that acid-suppressing drugs increase the risk of allergies in adults. Antacids may prevent the complete breakdown of proteins in food that triggers the immune system to view the proteins as allergens. Studies in animals have also shown antacid consumption produces higher levels of immune cells during pregnancy.

About 85% of pregnant women have heartburn. The authors of the study, from Children's Hospital Boston, do not suggest that pregnant women abandon antacids. But women should first consider non-drug tactics to manage the condition, such as eating smaller meals and avoiding caffeine, spicy foods and peppermint, which promote acid reflux.

"Some pregnant women have such severe acid reflux they can't eat because they are in so much pain,"   Dr. Elizabeth Hait, a co-author of the study, said in a news release. "That is obviously not good for the baby either. So each pregnant woman suffering from acid reflux, with the guidance of her physician, should weigh the potential risks and benefits of taking acid-suppressive medication, but dietary and lifestyle modifications should be attempted first."

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Eric Boyd / Los Angeles Times

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