Babies Who Eat Fish at Lower Risk of Pre-School Wheeze

Medication can increase child's risk of recurrent wheeze

(RxWiki News) Some moms may be reluctant to give their baby fish because of concern over fish mercury levels. However, new moms may want to reconsider fish as part of their infant’s diet, as a recent study shows that feeding your baby fish in the first nine months can help prevent pre-school wheeze.

Little is known about the cause of pre-school wheeze, or recurrent wheeze, which typically lasts several months and is usually triggered by viral respiratory tract infection. It could also be a sign of childhood asthma. In the latest study, Swedish researchers found that children who were fed fish before nine months of age were half as likely to develop pre-school wheeze by 4.5 years old. However, the children were more likely to have pre-school wheeze if they were treated with an antibiotic after birth or if the mother took the drug paracetamol during pregnancy.

"Fish-fed babies have lower risk for pre-school wheeze."

The researchers looked at 4,171 children over a four-year period. The mothers answered questions about their child’s diet at six months, 12 months and 4.5 years of age. The study found that 1 in 5 children had at least one episode of wheezing while 1 in 20 had recurrent wheeze, characterized by three or more episodes, over the last year. The authors had previously reported that fish contains properties that reduce allergy risks, including eczema in infancy and allergic rhinitis during pre-school. Now, they confirmed that eating fish does have a beneficial effect, at least in preventing pre-school wheeze.

The study says that the children were most often fed white fish, followed by salmon and flat fish, such as halibut.

The purpose of the study was to identify risk and prevention factors for pre-school wheeze, especially in relation to fish and exposure to medication, says lead author Dr. Emma Goksor from the Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, in a press release.

Being treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics in the first week after birth doubled a child’s risk of pre-school wheeze. The study found that 10.7% of the children who had recurrent wheeze had received antibiotics, compared to only 3.6% of children in the no-wheeze group. The risk is even higher for children with multiple-trigger wheeze, in which the wheeze is brought on by a variety of other triggers, such as exercise or allergens.

A mother’s use of the drug paracetamol – a common over-the-counter pain reliever used for minor aches and pain – increased the child’s risk of pre-school wheeze by 60%, according to researchers. About 12% of the wheezing children were exposed to paracetamol. The risk was doubled for children who suffered from multiple-trigger wheeze.

This observational study was published in the Acta Paediatrica.  

Review Date: 
November 23, 2011