A Critical Review of Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children

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Savithiri Ratnapalan




Fever, runny nose and cough are common childhood conditions that most of us take for granted as part of growing up and tell parents to wait it out. There is not much the medical community can offer as treatment, except advice on symptom control for fever.

Researchers at Wisconsin tried to study the effects of probiotics as a prophylactic measure to reduce the incidence and duration of flu like symptoms in 326 healthy children between 3 and 5 years of age who did not receive influenza vaccinations. They excluded children with preexisting diseases, lactose intolerance and those currently taking probiotics. Children enrolled in the study were prohibited from taking any food or supplement products containing probiotics or any traditional medicine during the study.

The children were randomized in to 3 groups: The placebo group, Lactobacillus acidophilus group and the combination (L. acidophilus and Bifidobacteria lactis) group and received the placebo, L. acidophilus or the combination with a glass of milk twice a day from November 2005 to May 2006. The frequency and duration of fever, cough, and rhinorrhea, of physicians' visits, antibiotic prescriptions and absenteeism were monitored.

Probiotics were shown to reduce the incidence of fever (single 53%, combination 73%) coughing (41% and 62%) and rhinorrhea by 28% and 59%. The duration of these symptoms were also reduced significantly by both the single (32%) and the combination (48%) probotic groups. This also translated in to less antibiotic use (68% for the single strain and 84% for the combination groups) and reduced number of missed school days.

The authors concluded that “daily dietary probiotic supplementation for 6 months was a safe effective way to reduce fever, rhinorrhea, and cough incidence and duration and antibiotic prescription incidence, as well as the number of missed school days attributable to illness, for children 3 to 5 years of age”.

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