Relation of early antibiotic use to childhood asthma: Confounding by indication?

Y. Su, J. Rothers, D. A. Stern, M. Halonen, A. L. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background Findings from studies of the relation between early antibiotic use and subsequent asthma have been inconsistent, which may be attributable to methodologic issues. Objective Our objective was to assess the impact of confounding by indication on the relation of early antibiotic use to childhood asthma through age 5 in a non-selected birth cohort (n=424). Methods Oral antibiotic use was assessed by frequent nurse interviews in the first 9 months of life. Physician-diagnosed active asthma and eczema were assessed by questionnaire at 1, 2, 3, and 5 years, and were considered as ever asthma or ever eczema if positive at any age. Allergen-specific IgE was assessed in plasma at 1, 2, 3, and 5 years. Confounding by indication was investigated by considering the relation of asthma to antibiotic use while controlling for the number of illness visits to a physician in early life. Results There was no statistically significant relation of early antibiotic use with physician-diagnosed eczema or allergen-specific IgE. A dose-response relation was evident for antibiotic use with ever asthma (odds ratio [OR]=1.5, P=0.047). Ever asthma also increased significantly with the number of illness visits to a physician (P<0.001). After adjustment for number of illness visits, antibiotic use showed no relation with asthma. Conclusions The relation of asthma to antibiotics in this cohort appears to be an artefact of the strong relation of number of physician visits for illness with both antibiotic use and risk for asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1222-1229
Number of pages8
JournalClinical and Experimental Allergy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • antibiotics
  • asthma
  • confounding
  • epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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