Does early life exposure to antibiotics increase the risk of eczema? A systematic review

Br J Dermatol. 2013 Nov;169(5):983-91. doi: 10.1111/bjd.12476.


A number of studies have suggested that early life exposure to antibiotics can lead to an increased risk of developing eczema. This systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies, involving children or young adults aged 0-25 years, assessed the impact of antibiotic exposure either in utero or during the first 12 months of life on subsequent eczema risk. Twenty studies examined the association between prenatal and/or postnatal exposure to antibiotics and development of eczema. The pooled odds ratio (OR) for the 17 studies examining postnatal antibiotic exposure was 1.41 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.30-1.53]. The pooled OR for the 10 longitudinal studies was 1.40 (95% CI 1.19-1.64), compared with a pooled OR of 1.43 (95% CI 1.36-1.51) for the seven cross-sectional studies. There was a significant dose-response association, suggesting a 7% increase in the risk of eczema for each additional antibiotic course received during the first year of life [pooled OR 1.07 (95% CI 1.02-1.11)]. Finally, the pooled OR for the four studies relating to antenatal exposure was 1.30 (95% CI 0.86-1.95). We conclude that exposure to antibiotics in the first year of life, but not prenatally, is more common in children with eczema.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Eczema / chemically induced*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents