AIM: We previously published the prevalence and predictors of probiotic use among a cohort of healthy 4 and 5-year-old children. Here we explore the species and strains most commonly used, the reasons probiotics are used, perceptions of the impact on children's health and parental behaviours around probiotic supplementation in children.
METHODS: Parents of 4 and 5-year-old children living in the Australian Capital Territory were invited to participate in an observational, cross-sectional study by completing a web-based survey between February and May 2020. Data concerning 481 children were eligible for analysis. Results are presented as simple proportions, with odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals where appropriate.
RESULTS: Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis were the most frequently reported species, and Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus GG was the most frequently reported strain. The most common reason for administering probiotics to the 228 (47.4%) of 481 children ever exposed was to promote general health (54%). Half (51%) of parents perceived probiotics had improved their child's general health, although this was more likely for children who had recently (odds ratio (OR): 2.69, 95% confidence intervals (CI): 1.47-4.93) or regularly (OR: 2.92, CI: 1.46-5.85) used probiotics or whose parent had recently used probiotics (OR: 2.47, CI: 1.34-4.55). Initial exposure to probiotics occurred before the age of 2 years in 65% of the cohort.
CONCLUSION: This community-based study suggests that parents use probiotics primarily to improve children's general health and with modest perceived effect. The long-term effects of early and prolonged exposure to probiotics are not well understood.