Kids Itchy Now, Asthmatic Later?

Eczema in toddlers may lead to asthma in the future

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Dry, itchy skin and rashes in toddlers over the long-term could be a sign of future breathing problems.

Kids who get eczema when they are two may have an increased risk of developing asthma when they are older, a new study has found. This shows a link, or an atopic march, between allergy-related diseases and asthma development.

"Although most cases of eczema in primary health care are mild to moderate, the findings from this study support the hypothesis of an atopic march in the general population," researchers said in their report.

"Kids feeling itchy? Talk to a dermatologist."

Researchers, led by Marit Saunes, PhD, professor in the Department of Public Health and General Practice at Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Norway, aimed to see how children developing eczema at 2-years-old affects their risk of acquiring asthma and other diseases from allergies when they are older.

The study surveyed 720 pregnant women and parents between September 2000 and December 2008 on what kinds of things their children were exposed to in their environment and their health concerning allergies.

Parents completed the questionnaire when their children were 6-months, 2-years and 6-years-old during regular doctors' visits.

By the end of the study, about 60 percent of the original participants, or 441, completed the study. They found that 2-year-olds with eczema are about 1.8 times more likely to have asthma when they are six, compared to those without the skin disease early on.

Of the children who had eczema when they were six, about 42 percent started having the skin condition after they were two.

"Whether eczema is a true risk factor for asthma and rhino-conjunctivitis has been debated, and the relationship between the different allergy-related disorders is unclear," the authors wrote in their report.

At the same time, the number of 6-year-olds with different diseases related to allergies was significantly higher among those who had eczema before they were two.

A little more than half of the children with eczema at 2-years-old did not have eczema when they were six.

Concerning gender differences, boys had significantly more asthma than girls at 8.7 percent to 5.4 percent respectively, but there were no differences among rates in eczema.

The authors note the participants selected for the study may be biased since only half of those who originally started the study completely finished the process.

In addition, they only tested patients when they were two, which may make their results less precise. Researchers also relied on the self-reported surveys versus actually having participants diagnosed by a doctor.

The authors do not have any competing interests in their study. The study was published online October 24 in BMC Pediatrics journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 5, 2012
Last Updated:
November 7, 2012