Probiotics are live and active microorganisms, mainly bacteria, which are similar to those that exist naturally in the human digestive tract. Often referred to as friendly bacteria, probiotics may help to encourage digestion and regularity, as well as replenish bacterial flora after a course of antibiotics. Side effects of probiotics in children are similar to those in adults, although they may be more dangerous in children. You should always consult your child’s pediatrician before feeding them food containing probiotics.
Due to the growing evidence that probiotics may be beneficial to adults, many food products for children are probiotic. Children may benefit from probiotics, as they may help to treat common childhood conditions such as respiratory infections, food allergies and eczema, although further research is warranted, according to Consumer Reports. Nonetheless, infection is a dangerous side effect in children, including infants and toddlers, should they have a suppressed or weakened immune system due to an underlying condition. If your child has short bowel syndrome, certain lactobacilli can cause infection as well. Probiotic sources for children include yogurt, yogurt shakes and fortified foods.
Intestinal gas is the most common side effect of probiotic use in both children and adults. This is due to the gas-producing bacteria present, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which break down lactic acid. Most cases of intestinal gas are mild and only require reducing the amount of probiotics. If gas becomes exceedingly painful or accompanies any other symptoms, such as watery stool or diarrhea, you should contact a physician. This may indicate an underlying gastrointestinal problem in your child that could be dangerous.
Like intestinal gas, bloating often appears as a common side effect in children, although it is generally quite mild. Bloating too is a result of gas buildup within the intestines and stomach and can become severe and painful in children with compromised immune systems. It is therefore exceedingly important to speak to your doctor before offering your child any probiotic-containing food, even if it is generally recognized as safe.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics: Probiotics in Formulas
- Probiotics in Pediatric Medicine; Sonia MIchaeil and Philip Sherman
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Introduction to Probiotics
- Caring for Your Baby and Young Child; Steven Shelov
- Consumer Reports: Probiotics Good for Kids?
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Oral Probiotics