Studies on almost 400,000 people found that giving antibiotics to infants increased their chance of developing the painful skin allergy by up to 41 per cent, and their risk of hay fever by up to 56 per cent.
Children given antibiotics before the age of two are more likely to develop eczema in later life, experts have found.
It means that when exposed to relatively harmless foreign substances such as pollen; their immune system over-reacts, sparking an allergic reaction.
According to the report published on Daily Mail, the scientists, who will present their data today at the European Respiratory Society congress in London, compiled the results of 22 studies. They found the increased risk of eczema ranged from 15 to 41 per cent depending on the type of study analysed, rising to 14 to 56 per cent for hay fever.
The risk of both allergies went up if the babies had been treated with two courses, rather than a single course, said Dr Fariba Ahmadizar, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands.However, last night doctors said children should still take antibiotics when needed.
Prescriptions data for children is not routinely recorded by the NHS, but experts estimate that the average child in the UK has taken ten courses of antibiotics by the age of 16 – more than one every two years.
Doctors are desperate to reduce the use of antibiotics among children, particularly in cases where they are never needed in the first place.
As well as increasing the risk of allergies, evidence suggests overuse of the drugs also increases the risk of type 1 diabetes and of obesity.
But experts are most concerned that over prescription of the drugs is creating a breed of untreatable superbugs. Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs adapt and find ways to survive the effects of medicines. The more that the bugs are exposed to the drugs, the quicker they evolve.
A major study led by Bristol University last year found that 48 per cent of youngsters in Britain with a common bladder complaint were carrying germs resistant to Ampicillin, a go-to drug used for a variety of illnesses.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, last year said parents should stop asking GPs for antibiotics for their children.
‘Using antibiotics when we don’t need them, or not always taking the full course properly, gives bacteria in our bodies that opportunity to become resistant to antibiotics.’