NMA: Nonprescription Medicines Academy

Probiotics May Reduce Cold and Flu Symptoms in Young Children

August 31st, 2009

In a study of children 3 to 5 years of age, daily probiotic consumption during the winter months proved to be a safe and effective strategy for reducing the incidence and duration of fever, rhinorrhea, and cough. Use of probiotics also reduced the number of antibiotic prescriptions and missed school days.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 326 children in a group child care center who were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or one of two treatments:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM at a total daily dose of 1 × 1010 colony-forming units (CFUs).
  • L acidophilus NCFM in combination with Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis Bi-07 at a total daily dose of 1 × 1010 CFUs.

The test products were consumed twice daily (as dry powders added to 1% milk) at the child care center over a 6-month period from November 2005 to May 2006.

Relative to placebo, L acidophilus NCFM significantly reduced fever incidence by 53.0% and coughing incidence by 41.4%; the incidence of rhinorrhea was reduced by 28.2%, but this change was not significant. There was a trend for broader protective effect with two probiotic strains: the combination probiotic significantly reduced fever incidence by 72.7%, coughing incidence by 62.1%, and rhinorrhea incidence by 58.8%. Symptom duration decreased significantly in both groups (by 32% with the single strain and 48% with the combination product).

The positive effects of probiotic treatment were seen in significant reductions in antibiotic use (reduction of 68.4% with the single strain and 84.2% with the combination probiotic) and days absent from group child care (reduction of 31.8% with the single strain and 27.7% with the combination product), compared with placebo.
Pediatrics. 2009;124:e172-9. Epub 2009 Jul 27.

Author: Cynthia Knapp Dlugosz, BPharm