Preschool facilities are a hotbed of germs that can put children at risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections. In fact, children in preschool are three times more likely to get an infection compared to children who stay home. In this 2015 study, researchers from the United Kingdom explored the use of probiotics to reduce risk of upper respiratory tract infection in preschool children.
This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study enrolled children age three to six years (n = 69). The children were given a combination containing four probiotic strains and 50 mg of vitamin C or placebo daily for six months. Children in the study were seen by a pediatrician at two, four and six months or when there was an infection or other illness. Blood, urine and saliva were collected at the beginning and end of the study. The children receiving the probiotic vitamin C combination had 33% reduced incidence and duration of upper respiratory tract infections compared to those children taking the placebo.
In addition, the children taking the probiotic vitamin C combination also had a 30% reduced rate of absence from preschool than children receiving placebo, and fewer unscheduled visits to the pediatrician due to illness. The children receiving the supplement were also treated with fewer antibiotics and there was a significant reduction in the number of days that cough medicine was needed compared to placebo. There was no significant differences noted in levels of plasma cytokines, salivary immunoglobulin A or urinary metabolites.
The dosage of the probiotic strains used in this study was 1.25 x 1010 colony-forming units of Lactobacillus acidophilus CUL21 (NCIMB 30156), Lactobacillus acidophilus CUL60 (NCIMB 30157), Bifidobacterium bifidum CUL20 (NCIMB 30153) and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CUL34 (NCIMB 30172).
While this is a fairly small study, the results are consistent with other studies showing that probiotics can reduce the incidence and severity of upper respiratory tract infections. The research involving low dose vitamin C is limited so it’s unclear as to the ancillary benefit, if any, that comes from the addition of the vitamin C.
Garaiova I, et al. Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomized controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015;69:373-379.

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