For Kids, Eczema is More Than an Itch

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Pediatric eczema tied to poorer health and multiple comorbid chronic health disorders

June 22, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Itchy skin is just one of the things eczema patients have to deal with. When kids have eczema, they could have more health conditions beyond the skin.

Kids with severe eczema were more likely to have impaired overall health and multiple health disorders related to eczema compared to healthy kids, a recently published study found.

In addition, kids with eczema were more likely to visit healthcare providers. 

The authors of this study said the findings also showed that children with eczema could be at risk of poorer oral health.

"Ask your dermatologist about eczema therapies."

The study, led by Jonathan Silverberg, MD, from the Department of Dermatology at Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, looked at the impact of eczema severity on how asthma, food allergies and other related illnesses related to eczema developed.

The condition, which is also called atopic dermatitis, causes itchy, inflamed skin along the elbows, face, backs of the knees and sometimes other parts of the body. Atopic means that it is related to allergic conditions like asthma and hay fever.

For this study, the researchers looked at data from more than 90,000 children ranging from 0 to 17 years of age who were part of the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health.

The survey asked parents about the physical, behavioral and emotional issues concerning their children.

The researchers tracked the number of eczema, hay fever, asthma and food allergy cases that happened over the previous year and noted the severity of each case.

Sleep impairments, recurring ear infections, visual and dental problems were also tracked, as well as how often healthcare facilities were utilized.

More severe eczema was linked with poorer overall health and impaired sleep according to the researchers.

About 13 percent of parents reported their children had eczema. Roughly 67 percent of the kids had mild cases, a little more than 25 percent of the kids had moderate eczema and 7 percent had severe cases.

Eczema severity was tied to a greater number of severe chronic health disorders, including food allergies, hay fever and asthma.

Specifically, 25 percent of children with eczema and 12 percent of children without eczema had asthma.

The severity of the other health conditions was also linked with the severity of the eczema. In total, about 37 percent of the kids with severe eczema and 24 percent of the kids with mild eczema had asthma.

In the 12 months prior to the survey, almost a third of the children with severe eczema had asthma compared to 19 percent of children who did not have severe eczema.

In addition, severe eczema was tied to bleeding gums and toothaches.

About 14 percent of kids with eczema had toothaches, compared to 10 percent of kids without eczema.

Broken teeth and tooth decay were unrelated to the skin condition.

The researchers also found that children with severe eczema were more likely to use healthcare services, including medical, dental, therapy and mental services.

About 21 percent of children with eczema used health services, compared to 11 percent of healthy children of the same age. 

The findings were the same across gender, age and the children's ethnicities.

"This study helps better understand the disease course of [atopic dermatitis] and identifies multiple important comorbidities that should be addressed by dermatologists, allergists, and primary care providers alike," the researchers wrote in their report.

"Moreover, it suggests that aggressive treatment to reduce the severity of eczema may reduce the risk of developing, or the severity of, the associated comorbidities."

The authors noted that kids' eczema was reported by their parents through the questionnaire. The frequency of eczema flair-ups among the participants may also have been overestimated.

In addition, poor sleep, related illnesses and utilization of health care were likely to be greater among atopic dermatitis patients who had asthma and hay fever.

The study, supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, was published online June 16 in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Review Date: 
June 17, 2013
Last Updated:
August 12, 2013