(RxWiki News) The exact cause of childhood eczema is not known, but it may involve an issue with the immune system that increases the risk of other health problems.
A research team thought that problems with the immune system might mean children with eczema would get more infections than other kids.
A study designed and conducted to test that theory found that children with eczema had higher rates of infections like ear infections, strep throat, flu and pneumonia. Some of them also had a greater incidence of warts.
"Consult a dermatologist for skin rashes."
Jonathan I. Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH, and Nanette B. Silverberg, MD, from the Department of Dermatology at Northwestern University in Chicago and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, co-authored this research publication.
This study involved 9,417 children up to age 17 who participated in the 2007 National Health Interview. Parents or children answered a questionnaire that asked about eczema, asthma and allergy diagnoses, as well as cases of warts and other infections. The researchers chose to look at warts because they can be caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and represent a skin infection.
For purposes of their research, the study team grouped the responses of the children by their diagnoses. Children with eczema or skin allergies were considered to have atopic dermatitis and were compared to children who had any of the atopic dermatitis-related disorders of food allergies, respiratory allergies or asthma. The group with non-skin allergies or asthma was considered to have atopic disease.
There were 460 children in the study with atopic dermatitis only and 396 with atopic dermatitis and another atopic disease. A group of 8,556 children without atopic dermatitis were used as a control group for comparison.
The results showed that children with atopic dermatitis had higher rates of strep throat, colds, flu, pneumonia, sinus infections, recurring ear infections, chickenpox and urinary tract infections. The risks for these infections ranged from 24 to 312 percent higher in the children with atopic dermatitis than in children without atopic dermatitis.
Children with both atopic dermatitis and other atopic disease had 83 percent higher odds of having warts than children without atopic dermatitis.
The researchers found that children with warts had higher numbers of infections than children without warts. Kids who had warts and atopic dermatitis had a higher number of infections that those with just atopic dermatitis.
An association was found between the chance of getting asthma and whether a child with atopic dermatitis had warts or not. The odds of getting asthma were 95 percent higher in kids with atopic dermatitis, compared to no atopic dermatitis. But if a child had both atopic dermatitis and warts, the odds of ever getting asthma increased to 320 percent compared to kids with atopic dermatitis and no warts.
The odds for hay fever and allergy were also higher in children with atopic dermatitis without warts compared to those without atopic dermatitis. But the odds of these illnesses were also higher in children who had both atopic dermatitis and warts than in those with atopic dermatitis and no warts.
One limitation of this study noted by the authors was that the incidence of infections and warts was reported by the study participants and may not have been completely accurate.
These authors remarked that their findings might represent a subset of children with atopic dermatitis who might be at higher risk of infection.
“The strong association between warts and various infectious causes supports a potential role of immune dysfunction in the development of childhood warts,” the authors explained.
"Taken together, the results of this study suggest that immune dysfunction plays an important role in the development of [atopic dermatitis] and warts and their association with increased risk for other infections," they concluded.
This study was published in the April issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The authors declared no conflict of interest.