In a new clinical report, "Probiotics and Prebiotics in Pediatrics," in the December 2010 print issue of Pediatrics (published online Nov. 29), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reviews the evidence surrounding the use of probiotics and prebiotics for children.
In otherwise healthy children and infants, administering probiotics early in the course of diarrhea from acute viral gastroenteritis can reduce its duration by one day. Probiotics also have been found to be modestly effective in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea in otherwise healthy children, though there is no evidence probiotics are effective at treating this type of diarrhea.
There is some evidence to support the use of probiotics to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis in infants with a birth weight of more than 1000g, but more studies are needed. More research also is needed before probiotics can be recommended to treat disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, colic, and constipation, and to prevent common infections and allergy in children.
Probiotics or prebiotics added to infant formula and other foods marketed for use in children do not appear to be harmful to healthy infants and children, but the clinical efficacy for their addition is insufficient to recommend their routine use in these formulas.
Probiotics should not be given to chronically or seriously ill children. The long-term benefits of prebiotics, found in human milk, may be beneficial in reducing common infections and atopic eczema in healthy children; however, more research is needed before such recommendations for the use of prebiotics in infant formula can be made.