Probiotics for Tummy Bugs: Do They Help Your Child?
Dr. Diane looks at the latest research
I hate to be the bearer of bad news. I didn’t even want to write this article.
Last fall, two studies showed that probiotics may not work as well in kids who have “tummy bugs” as we had previously thought.
I am defining acute gastroenteritis here – that’s the term we docs use to describe a tummy bug – as that all-too-common few days of vomiting and loose stools/diarrhea your kids pick up at school.
In the studies (which were actually pretty good ones), two large groups of children (one study had 971, another had 886) were randomly selected to take five days of mostly Lactobacillus rhamnosus or Lactobacillus helveticus, two common probiotics we recommend for kiddos this age, if they walked into certain U.S. or Canadian ERs with symptoms of gastroenteritis. Another group was assigned a fake/placebo.
The studies seemed pretty fair. Their poops were tested and found to have similar germs (viruses vs bacteria vs no cause found). Similar numbers in each group had gotten antibiotics or vomiting medicines. Neither study was run by a corporation – they were publicly funded.
After 14 days, participants were given a survey to see how their symptoms were doing. I’ll spare you the details – the probiotic group didn’t feel any better than the placebo group in both studies.
What does this mean? Well. Probiotics may not be beneficial to our kids when it comes to tummy bugs. But, let’s remember our critical thinking skills when we read medical studies –
- They only tested two types of probiotics.
- They only tested a five-day course of it.
- These studies were done on one age group only: 3 months to 4 years.
Probiotics have, in other studies, been proven to be beneficial in helping other ailments! Like colic, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, and even preventing necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies. So let’s not give up on them yet.
But I do think this is enough evidence to prove that probiotics likely wont help your kids tummy bug. If you have questions, talk to your pediatrician about other ways probiotics can help.
Get to know Diane Arnaout, M.D.
"Dr. Diane Arnaout is a pediatrician at the Cook Children's Forest Park practice. If you would like to see her at Forest Park, call 817-336-3800 or click here for an appointment. Dr. Diane has been a Cook Children’s physician since 2011.
She got her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University, went to medical school at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, and completed her pediatric residency in the Texas Medical Center at UT Health Science Center in Houston.
She is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. She has two small kids, whom she credits as being her toughest (and best) teachers. She loves being a pediatrician and loves to teach parents all about their childrens’ health daily, both in-person and online.”