Mom’s Heartburn Meds Carry Asthma Risk?
Children Whose Mothers Take Prescription Acid Blockers More Likely to Have Breathing Disorder, Study Shows
March 18, 2008 (Philadelphia) -- If you're one of the millions of women who
suffer from heartburn during pregnancy, a cautionary note: New research
suggests that some acid-blocking drugs used to treat the condition can raise
the odds that your child will develop asthma.
A review of data on nearly 30,000 children shows that those whose mothers
took prescription acid-blocking drugs during pregnancy were 51% more likely to
suffer from wheezing, breathing difficulties, and other symptoms of asthma.
The researchers looked only at heartburn drugs, including H2 blockers like
Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac, and proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec,
Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix, and Nexium.
Over-the-counter antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, and Maalox were not
Limit Use of Medications
Women who have taken the drugs during pregnancy shouldn't panic, says
researcher Elizabeth Yen, MD, a child health specialist at Harvard and
Children’s Hospital Boston.
"Much more study needs to be done," she tells WebMD.
At the same time, pregnant women should limit their use of the medications,
The medications should only be taken "if you're having persistent
heartburn that is interfering with your quality of life. And even then, always
check with your doctor first," she says.
Heartburn Strikes 1 in 2 Pregnant Women
More than half of all pregnant women report symptoms of severe heartburn,
particularly during their second and third trimesters. Heartburn is typically a
burning sensation of the esophagus, most commonly linked to gastroesophageal
reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux.
Yen says previous studies have shown that "if you give acid-blocking
drugs and test someone's blood, there is evidence of immune system chemicals
called cytokines that set you up for an allergic reaction."
To determine if there was a link between taking the drugs in pregnancy and
childhood allergies or asthma, the researchers analyzed data from three Swedish
national health care registries.
The registries included data on 29,490 children, aged 2 to 11, who had been
discharged from the hospital with a diagnosis of allergies and/or asthma. A
total of 5,645 of the children had been exposed to acid-blocking drugs in the
There was no link between taking acid blockers in pregnancy and food
allergies, hay fever, or other allergic diseases except for asthma.
The findings were presented here at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma
& Immunology (AAAAI).
Acid-Blocking Drugs in Pregnancy
Former AAAAI president William Busse, MD, head of the allergy section at the
University of Wisconsin in Madison, says a link between the use of
acid-blocking drugs in pregnancy and childhood asthma makes sense from a
physiological point of view.
"We know that some immune system regulation that protects us against
asthma has its origins in the [acidic] GI tract," he tells WebMD. "So
one has to wonder that if you take drugs that suppress acid in the GI tract,
you may be modifying the normal immune surveillance."
The new study offers "a novel, intriguing observation" that we
should study further, Busse says.