NHD Paediatric Hub

Exploring the role of probiotics in child health in the UK

Kate heads up our Paediatric Hub this month. Here she focuses on probiotics and the role it can play in child health.

Twitter : @kate_roberts

Kate Roberts, RD

Senior Specialist Dietitian

The topic of probiotics in healthcare was once a niche matter. However, in recent years, probiotics have gained significant attention for their potential health benefits, particularly in children. In the UK, children's use of probiotics is becoming increasingly common, as parents seek natural ways to support their young ones' health. This article aims to provide an update on the current understanding and usage of probiotics in children across the UK.

In the UK, there has been a noticeable surge in the consumption of probiotics for children. This trend is largely driven by growing awareness amongst parents about the importance of gut health and its impact on overall well-being.(1) With concerns about antibiotic resistance and a desire for more natural remedies, many parents are turning to probiotics as a preventive measure against common childhood ailments.


Numerous studies have investigated the potential benefits of probiotics for children. Research suggests that probiotics can help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, support digestive health and prevent atopic disease.(2) Additionally, probiotics have shown promise in alleviating symptoms of conditions such as diarrhoea, eczema, and allergies in children.(3) However, it's important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the specific strains, dosages and long-term effects of probiotic supplementation in children.


Probiotic products tailored for children are widely available in the UK, ranging from chewable tablets to flavoured yoghurt drinks. These products often contain strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are believed to confer health benefits. Moreover, probiotics are increasingly incorporated into infant formulas and baby foods, reflecting the growing demand for natural and functional ingredients in children's nutrition.(1)

Guidance for parents

While probiotics are generally considered safe for children, it's essential for parents to consult healthcare professionals before introducing them into their child's routine, especially for those with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems. Healthcare providers can offer personalised recommendations based on the child's age, health status and specific needs. Additionally, parents should look for products labelled with specific strains and supported by clinical evidence.(4)

The United States stands out as being more advanced in the realm of paediatric probiotics compared with the UK. This advancement is evidenced by several factors:

  • The availability and diversity of paediatric probiotic products in the US market exceed those found in the UK.(5)
  • American consumers have access to a wider range of probiotic formulations tailored specifically for children, including diverse strains and delivery methods such as chewable tablets, gummies, and powders.
  • The incorporation of probiotics into mainstream paediatric healthcare practices is more prevalent in the US.(6)
  • Healthcare providers in the US are more likely to recommend probiotics for children, both as a preventive measure and as part of treatment protocols for various paediatric conditions.
  • Research and clinical trials investigating paediatric probiotics are more abundant in the US, contributing to a deeper understanding of their efficacy and safety in children.(7) 

The USA's proactive approach to paediatric probiotics underscores its leadership in this field compared with the UK. More on the available probiotics in the USA here...

Challenges and future directions

Despite the growing popularity of probiotics, challenges remain in terms of standardisation, regulations and education.

There is a need for clearer guidelines on probiotic use in children and robust quality control measures to ensure the efficacy and safety of products.

Furthermore, ongoing research is necessary to explore the full spectrum of potential benefits and mechanisms of action associated with probiotics in paediatric populations.(1)



The use of probiotics in children is on the rise in the UK, driven by increasing awareness of gut health and the desire for natural health solutions. Whilst research supports the potential benefits of probiotics for children, more studies are needed to fully understand their effects and optimise their use. By consulting healthcare professionals and selecting high-quality products, parents can make informed decisions to support their children's health through probiotics.


  1. Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, Gibson GR, Merenstein  DJ, Pot B and Sanders ME (2019). Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 11(8), 506-514

  2. Kalliomäki M, Salminen S, Arvilommi H, Kero P, Koskinen P and Isolauri E (2001). Probiotics in primary prevention of atopic disease: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet, 357(9262), 1076-1079

  3. Fiocchi A, Pawankar R, Cuello-Garcia C, Ahn K, Al-Hammadi S, Agarwal A and Poddighe D (2018). World Allergy Organisation-McMaster University Guidelines for Allergic Disease Prevention (GLAD-P): probiotics. World Allergy Organization Journal, 11(1), 1-42

  4. .

    Johnston BC, Goldenberg JZ, Vandvik PO, Sun X, Guyatt GH (2019). Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 4(4), CD004827

  5. Sung V, D'Amico F, Cabana MD, Chau K, Koren G, Savino F and Osborn DA (2020). Lactobacillus reuteri to treat infant colic: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 141(1), e20171811


    Kligler B and Cohrssen A (2008). Probiotics. American Family Physician, 78(9), 1073-1078

  7. Crittenden R and Playne MJ (2010). Prebiotics. In Handbook of probiotics and prebiotics (pp. 159-190). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd