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Scientists reviewed medical records on more than 850,000 children born within the Military Health System between 2001 and 2013. Almost 100,000 of the children were prescribed an acid suppressant before age 1.
Most of the kids were given H2 blockers (also called histamine-2 receptor antagonists), such as Pepcid and Zantac. About 10 percent took proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Nexium. And about 20 percent were prescribed both.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, controlled for factors that might influence fracture risk – such as gender, premature birth, and being overweight – and excluded children who had genetic disorders that affect bone density.
Here's what the researchers found:
- Kids who were prescribed PPIs as babies had a 23 percent higher chance of fracturing a bone during childhood compared to kids who didn't received antacids.
- The risk of bone fractures in childhood jumped to 31 percent among kids prescribed both H2 blockers and PPIs as babies.
- Taking H2 blockers by themselves didn't appear to increase bone fracture risk.
- The longer babies took PPIs alone, or with H2 blockers, the higher their risk of fracture. Taking these antacids before 6 months old also seemed to increase fracture risk.
It's important to know that these findings show an association between certain acid suppressants and fractures, and don't prove that one causes the other. More research is needed to confirm the results, the study authors said. Nevertheless, previous research has associated PPI use with increased bone fracture risk in older adults. This may be because the drugs affect how bone cells function.
Babies with gastroesophageal reflux spit up and vomit frequently. It's a common condition but not the same as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which is more serious. If you think your baby may have reflux, it's important to talk to your pediatrician about how best to treat it.
Antacids may be necessary for babies diagnosed with GERD, which is rare. But study coauthor Elizabeth Hisle-Gorman said that parents and doctors should otherwise be cautious about using these types of medications.
"In the absence of a diagnosis of GERD, you should not put an infant on acid-suppressing medicine," Hisle-Gorman told the New York Times. "Physicians should be judicious when contemplating using an acid suppressant."
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