You've probably heard about the benefits of probiotics for regulating digestion and keeping your bowels healthy. These good bacteria are found in some types of food, but are also available in supplement form. What you may not know is that probiotics can also help fight off a cold. Talk to your baby's pediatrician about using probiotics when she's sick.
Probiotics can help keep a cold at bay because they play a positive role in boosting your baby's immune system. In a study sponsored by Danisco and published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers discovered that babies given probiotics experienced a 53 percent reduction in fevers for the single strain group and an over 72 percent reduction in the combination strain group. Coughing and runny nose symptoms were also reduced in both the single strain and the combination strain groups. It's important to understand that these effects were seen in babies taking daily supplements, rather than just the occasional bowl of yogurt.
Dr. Athos Bousvaros, associate director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at Children's Hospital Boston, cautions parents not to use probiotics in babies under one month of age. After that, probiotics can have profound effects on preventing colds and other respiratory conditions. It's important to discuss probiotic supplements with your infant's doctor before giving them to him. Look for drops for tiny babies or chewable tablets for older ones. Make sure the product contains live and active cultures, and follow the dosing instructions carefully.
The What to Expect website suggests combining probiotic supplements with foods that contain them. Infants aren't ready to eat solid foods until four to six months of age, so be sure to follow the advice of your baby's pediatrician about introducing probiotic foods. Yogurt is an ideal source of probiotics, and its texture is appropriate for infants. Kefir, aged cheeses, miso, tofu and fermented foods like sauerkraut are other options.
Probiotics aren't appropriate for all babies. Babies with IV catheters and compromised immune systems who ingest probiotics have an increased risk of infection. Not all probiotics are created equal, and dietician Elisa Reid encourages you to look for products that list a specific strain and amount on the label. In addition, older people might experience more benefits from probiotics than babies because the amount of good bacteria in your body declines with age. Despite this, foods that contain probiotics also offer other health benefits, so it's still a good idea to serve them to your little one.