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1.  Developmental Profiles of Eczema, Wheeze, and Rhinitis: Two Population-Based Birth Cohort Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(10):e1001748.
Using data from two population-based birth cohorts, Danielle Belgrave and colleagues examine the evidence for atopic march in developmental profiles for allergic disorders.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
The term “atopic march” has been used to imply a natural progression of a cascade of symptoms from eczema to asthma and rhinitis through childhood. We hypothesize that this expression does not adequately describe the natural history of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis during childhood. We propose that this paradigm arose from cross-sectional analyses of longitudinal studies, and may reflect a population pattern that may not predominate at the individual level.
Methods and Findings
Data from 9,801 children in two population-based birth cohorts were used to determine individual profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis and whether the manifestations of these symptoms followed an atopic march pattern. Children were assessed at ages 1, 3, 5, 8, and 11 y. We used Bayesian machine learning methods to identify distinct latent classes based on individual profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis. This approach allowed us to identify groups of children with similar patterns of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis over time.
Using a latent disease profile model, the data were best described by eight latent classes: no disease (51.3%), atopic march (3.1%), persistent eczema and wheeze (2.7%), persistent eczema with later-onset rhinitis (4.7%), persistent wheeze with later-onset rhinitis (5.7%), transient wheeze (7.7%), eczema only (15.3%), and rhinitis only (9.6%). When latent variable modelling was carried out separately for the two cohorts, similar results were obtained. Highly concordant patterns of sensitisation were associated with different profiles of eczema, rhinitis, and wheeze. The main limitation of this study was the difference in wording of the questions used to ascertain the presence of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis in the two cohorts.
Conclusions
The developmental profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis are heterogeneous; only a small proportion of children (∼7% of those with symptoms) follow trajectory profiles resembling the atopic march.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Our immune system protects us from viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens by recognizing specific molecules on the invader's surface and initiating a sequence of events that culminates in the death of the pathogen. Sometimes, however, our immune system responds to harmless materials (allergens such as pollen) and triggers allergic, or atopic, symptoms. Common atopic symptoms include eczema (transient dry itchy patches on the skin), wheeze (high pitched whistling in the chest, a symptom of asthma), and rhinitis (sneezing or a runny nose in the absence of a cold or influenza). All these symptoms are very common during childhood, but recent epidemiological studies (examinations of the patterns and causes of diseases in a population) have revealed age-related changes in the proportions of children affected by each symptom. So, for example, eczema is more common in infants than in school-age children. These findings have led to the idea of “atopic march,” a natural progression of symptoms within individual children that starts with eczema, then progresses to wheeze and finally rhinitis.
Why Was This Study Done?
The concept of atopic march has led to the initiation of studies that aim to prevent the development of asthma in children who are thought to be at risk of asthma because they have eczema. Moreover, some guidelines recommend that clinicians tell parents that children with eczema may later develop asthma or rhinitis. However, because of the design of the epidemiological studies that support the concept of atopic march, children with eczema who later develop wheeze and rhinitis may actually belong to a distinct subgroup of children, rather than representing the typical progression of atopic diseases. It is important to know whether atopic march adequately describes the natural history of atopic diseases during childhood to avoid the imposition of unnecessary strategies on children with eczema to prevent asthma. Here, the researchers use machine learning techniques to model the developmental profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis during childhood in two large population-based birth cohorts by taking into account time-related (longitudinal) changes in symptoms within individuals. Machine learning is a data-driven approach that identifies structure within the data (for example, a typical progression of symptoms) using unsupervised learning of latent variables (variables that are not directly measured but are inferred from other observable characteristics).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data from two UK birth cohorts—the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and the Manchester Asthma and Allergy Study (MAAS)—for their study (9,801 children in total). Both studies enrolled children at birth and monitored their subsequent health at regular review clinics. At each review clinic, information about eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis was collected from the parents using validated questionnaires. The researchers then used these data and machine learning methods to identify groups of children with similar patterns of onset of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis over the first 11 years of life. Using a type of statistical model called a latent disease profile model, the researchers found that the data were best described by eight latent classes—no disease (51.3% of the children), atopic march (3.1%), persistent eczema and wheeze (2.7%), persistent eczema with later-onset rhinitis (4.7%), persistent wheeze with later-onset rhinitis (5.7%), transient wheeze (7.7%), eczema only (15.3%), and rhinitis only (9.6%).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, in two large UK birth cohorts, the developmental profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis were heterogeneous. Most notably, the progression of symptoms fitted the profile of atopic march in fewer than 7% of children with symptoms. The researchers acknowledge that their study has some limitations. For example, small differences in the wording of the questions used to gather information from parents about their children's symptoms in the two cohorts may have slightly affected the findings. However, based on their findings, the researchers propose that, because eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis are common, these symptoms often coexist in individuals, but as independent entities rather than as a linked progression of symptoms. Thus, using eczema as an indicator of subsequent asthma risk and assigning “preventative” measures to children with eczema is flawed. Importantly, clinicians need to understand the heterogeneity of patterns of atopic diseases in children and to communicate this variability to parents when advising them about the development and resolution of atopic symptoms in their children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001748.
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about eczema (including personal stories), asthma (including personal stories), and rhinitis
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information about atopic diseases
The UK not-for-profit organization Allergy UK provides information about atopic diseases and a description of the atopic march
MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on eczema, wheezing, and rhinitis (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about allergies, eczema, and asthma (in English and Spanish)
Information about ALSPAC and MAAS is available
Wikipedia has pages on machine learning and latent disease profile models (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001748
PMCID: PMC4204810  PMID: 25335105
2.  Gene-Environment Interaction in the Onset of Eczema in Infancy: Filaggrin Loss-of-Function Mutations Enhanced by Neonatal Cat Exposure  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e131.
Background
Loss-of-function variants in the gene encoding filaggrin (FLG) are major determinants of eczema. We hypothesized that weakening of the physical barrier in FLG-deficient individuals may potentiate the effect of environmental exposures. Therefore, we investigated whether there is an interaction between FLG loss-of-function mutations with environmental exposures (pets and dust mites) in relation to the development of eczema.
Methods and Findings
We used data obtained in early life in a high-risk birth cohort in Denmark and replicated the findings in an unselected birth cohort in the United Kingdom. Primary outcome was age of onset of eczema; environmental exposures included pet ownership and mite and pet allergen levels. In Copenhagen (n = 379), FLG mutation increased the risk of eczema during the first year of life (hazard ratio [HR] 2.26, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.27–4.00, p = 0.005), with a further increase in risk related to cat exposure at birth amongst children with FLG mutation (HR 11.11, 95% CI 3.79–32.60, p < 0.0001); dog exposure was moderately protective (HR 0.49, 95% CI 0.24–1.01, p = 0.05), but not related to FLG genotype. In Manchester (n = 503) an independent and significant association of the development of eczema by age 12 mo with FLG genotype was confirmed (HR 1.95, 95% CI 1.13–3.36, p = 0.02). In addition, the risk increased because of the interaction of cat ownership at birth and FLG genotype (HR 3.82, 95% CI 1.35–10.81, p = 0.01), with no significant effect of the interaction with dog ownership (HR 0.59, 95% CI 0.16–2.20, p = 0.43). Mite-allergen had no effects in either cohort. The observed effects were independent of sensitisation.
Conclusions
We have demonstrated a significant interaction between FLG loss-of-function main mutations (501x and 2282del4) and cat ownership at birth on the development of early-life eczema in two independent birth cohorts. Our data suggest that cat but not dog ownership substantially increases the risk of eczema within the first year of life in children with FLG loss-of-function variants, but not amongst those without. FLG-deficient individuals may need to avoid cats but not dogs in early life.
In two independent cohorts of children, Hans Bisgaard and colleagues show an association between mutations in the filaggrin gene (FLG) and ownership of cats, but not dogs, with development of eczema.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Eczema is a skin condition characterized by dry, red, and itchy patches on the skin. Eczema is associated with asthma and allergy, though allergy rarely plays a role in development or severity of eczema. Eczema usually begins during infancy, typically on the face, scalp, neck, extensor sides of the forearms, and legs. Up to one in five infants develops eczema, but in more than half of them, the condition improves or disappears completely before they are 15 years old. If eczema persists into adulthood, it usually affects the face and the skin inside the knees and elbows. There is no cure for eczema but it can be controlled by avoiding anything that makes its symptoms worse. These triggers include irritants such as wool, strong soaps, perfumes, and dry environments. A good skin-care routine and frequent moisturizing can also help to keep eczema under control, but in many cases, corticosteroid creams and ointments may be necessary to reduce inflammation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Eczema tends to run in families. This suggests that eczema is caused by genetic factors as well as by environmental factors. Recently, researchers discovered that two common “loss-of-function” variants in the gene encoding filaggrin (FLG) predispose people to eczema. People who inherit one or two defective genes make no filaggrin, a protein that normally forms a physical barrier in the skin that protects the body from potentially harmful substances in the environment. Might the weakening of this barrier in filaggrin-deficient individuals affect their responses to environmental substances to which the skin is exposed? In this study, the researchers test this potential explanation for how genetic and environmental factors (in particular, exposure to pets) might interact to determine an individual's chances of developing eczema.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To test their hypothesis, the researchers studied two independent groups of infants during their first year of life—a high-risk group consisting of infants born in Copenhagen, Denmark to mothers with asthma and a group of infants born to women from the general population in Manchester, United Kingdom. The researchers determined which FLG variants each child had inherited and classified those with either one or two defective copies of FLG as having an FLG mutation. They determined pet exposure in early life by asking whether a dog or a cat was living in the parental home when the child was born (“pet ownership”) and then analyzed how these genetic and environmental factors affected the age of onset of eczema. In both groups, children with FLG mutations were twice as likely to develop eczema during the first year of life as children without FLG mutations. For children without FLG mutations, cat ownership at birth had no effect on eczema risk but for children with FLG mutations, cat ownership at birth (but not dog ownership) further increased the risk of developing eczema.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that FLG mutations and cat ownership at birth interact to determine the chances of a child developing eczema during the first year of life. They provide support, therefore, for the researchers' suggestion that the weakening of the skin's protective barrier that is caused by filaggrin deficiency increases the child's susceptibility to factors associated with cat exposure. Only a small number of children in this study carried FLG mutations and were exposed to cats from birth, so these findings need confirming in independent studies. In addition, it is still not clear how exposure to cats drives the development of eczema. Allergy was not the mechanism as the FLG-deficient children exposed to cat and who developed eczema did not develop cat-specific immunoglobin E antibodies. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that, to reduce their risk of developing eczema, filaggrin-deficient individuals should avoid cats (but not dogs) during the first few months of life.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050131.
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on eczema (in English and Spanish); links to further information are provided by MedlinePlus
EczemaNet is a comprehensive online information resource about eczema provided by the American Academy of Dermatologists
The US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provides information on eczema
The UK National Health Service Direct health encyclopedia provides information for patients on eczema (in several languages)
The Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) and Manchester Asthma and Allergy Study (MAAS) Web sites provide more information about the children involved in this research
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050131
PMCID: PMC2504043  PMID: 18578563
3.  338 Early Clinical Differential Diagnosis between Infant Atopic Dermatitis and Seborrheic Eczema 
Background
Clinical differential diagnosis between atopic dermatitis and seborrheic eczema is sometimes difficult. Early differential diagnosis is important, since atopic dermatitis can be more difficult to treat and may be associated with asthma and allergic rhinitis.
Methods
In a cohort study, 96 infants with high risk for atopic dermatitis were followed up from the maternal ward until they completed one year of age. The infants were submitted to complete skin examination, monthly, for a 1 year period. A full skin examination was performed and any sign of eczema was registered. Therapy with hydrocortisone 1% cream was prescribed. Eczema onset time, skin distribution, response to therapy and the presence of pruritus were evaluated.
Results
87 (96%) infants fulfilled the study criteria (physical examination at least 10 months). Fivty four (62%) infants had signs of eczema during one year follow up. Atopic dermatitis was diagnosed in 14 (16%) patients and seborrheic eczema in 30 (34.5%) infants, with 10 (11.5%) classified as: both eczemas. Atopic eczema onset was mainly between 2 and 4 months and seborrheic eczema between 1 week and 3 months, with an important coincident period. Facial eczema had similar onset and semiological aspect for both diseases in its beginning. Head eczema was present in 40 (74%) eczema infants, 33 (82.5%) with a posterior diagnosis of seborrheic eczema and 7 (17.5%) with atopic dermatitis. After 3 to 5 months, axillar and groin folds eczema were the main signs of seborrheic dermatitis diagnosis, while face, neck and limbs were the main eczema sites in atopic dermatitis. The 10 infants with dubious eczema just after 6 months could have a more accurate eczema diagnosis. Hanifin et Rajka diagnostic criteria for infants showed to be useful just after 6 months, since some of its criteria are evolutive. All patients improved with hydrocortisone cream, but seborrheic eczema infants had a better response and prognosis, with complete eczema resolution until 8 months. The presence of pruritus could be securely established just after 6 months of age.
Conclusions
Continuous follow up is indispensable for Infant atopic dermatitis differential diagnosis with seborrheic eczema. Eczema distribution and therapy response are the best predictors for differential diagnosis in infant eczema.
doi:10.1097/01.WOX.0000412101.79708.1d
PMCID: PMC3513086
4.  A Randomised Controlled Trial of Ion-Exchange Water Softeners for the Treatment of Eczema in Children 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(2):e1000395.
In a randomized trial evaluating the effect of installation of ion-exchange water softeners in the households of children with eczema, the researchers found no evidence of improvement in eczema severity as compared to usual care in the study population.
Background
Epidemiological studies and anecdotal reports suggest a possible link between household use of hard water and atopic eczema. We sought to test whether installation of an ion-exchange water softener in the home can improve eczema in children.
Methods and Findings
This was an observer-blind randomised trial involving 336 children (aged 6 months to 16 years) with moderate/severe atopic eczema. All lived in hard water areas (≥200 mg/l calcium carbonate). Participants were randomised to either installation of an ion-exchange water softener plus usual eczema care, or usual eczema care alone. The primary outcome was change in eczema severity (Six Area Six Sign Atopic Dermatitis Score, SASSAD) at 12 weeks, measured by research nurses who were blinded to treatment allocation. Analysis was based on the intent-to-treat population. Eczema severity improved for both groups during the trial. The mean change in SASSAD at 12 weeks was −5.0 (20% improvement) for the water softener group and −5.7 (22% improvement) for the usual care group (mean difference 0.66, 95% confidence interval −1.37 to 2.69, p = 0.53). No between-group differences were noted in the use of topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors.
Conclusions
Water softeners provided no additional benefit to usual care in this study population. Small but statistically significant differences were found in some secondary outcomes as reported by parents, but it is likely that such improvements were the result of response bias, since participants were aware of their treatment allocation. A detailed report for this trial is also available at http://www.hta.ac.uk.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN71423189
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Eczema (sometimes referred to as atopic dermatitis) is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects about 20% of school children in developed countries. Eczema is often associated with other conditions, such as asthma, hay-fever and food allergy and can cause intractable itching leading to thickened skin, bleeding, secondary infection, sleep loss, poor concentration, and psychological distress. Current topical treatments for eczema have side effects, for example, topical corticosteroids may cause skin thinning and the long term safety of topical tacrolimus and pimecrolimus has yet to be determined. Therefore, there is a lot of interest in exploring the benefits of non-pharmacological treatments that have no apparent side effects.
Water hardness (≥200 mg/l calcium carbonate) has become a recent focus of attention.
Why Was This Study Done?
In addition to some epidemiological evidence linking increased water hardness with increased eczema prevalence, there have been widespread anecdotal reports of improvement in the skin of children with eczema when the family has moved from a hard to a soft water area. In addition, some patients report how their eczema symptoms have rapidly improved following the installation of a water softener. However, to date there have been no relevant published trials evaluating the potential benefit of water softeners for eczema. Given the lack of evidence, the high public interest in their potential benefit and the low risk of adverse effects, the researcher conducted a study to assess whether the installation of an ion-exchange water softener reduces the severity of eczema in children with moderate to severe eczema.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers did a pilot study that showed that it was not possible to blind participants to their treatment allocation using real and “dummy” water softener units because the softened water produced more soap suds. So the researchers conducted an observer-blind randomised controlled trial in which they used trained research nurses to conduct an objective assessment of every participant's skin. The researchers recruited 336 children who all lived in hard water areas in England. Eligible children were aged 6 months to 16 years who had a diagnosis of eczema (in line with the UK working party's diagnostic criteria) and an eczema severity score of 10 or over. Participants were randomised to either installation of an ion-exchange water softener plus usual eczema care, or usual eczema care alone. Trained research nurses examined each child's skin at baseline and at 6, 12, and 16 weeks to record changes in eczema severity. The researchers also analysed any changes in symptoms over the study period such as, sleep loss and itchiness, the amount of topical corticosteroid/calcineurin inhibitors used, the Dermatitis Family Impact questionnaire and the health related Quality of Life (children's version).
Although both treatment groups improved in disease severity during the course of the trial, the researchers found no difference between the treatment groups in the main outcome—eczema severity. Similar finding were found for night movement (scratching) and the use of topical medications (creams/ointments applied to the skin), both of which were blinded to intervention status. Nevertheless, parents in the trial did report small health benefits, and just over 50% chose to buy the water softener at the end of the trial because of perceived improvements in the eczema and the wider benefits of water softeners. It is unclear how much of this effect can be explained by prior belief in the effectiveness of the water softeners for the treatment of eczema.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this study suggest that water softeners provide no additional clinical benefit to usual care in children with eczema so the use of ion-exchange water softeners for the treatment of moderate to severe eczema in children should not be recommended. However, it is up to each family to decide whether or not the wider benefits of installing a water softener in their home are sufficient to consider buying one.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000395.
The UK's NHS presents information on eczema for patients and families
MedlinePlus gives information for patients, families, and caregivers on eczema and other similar conditions
The National Eczema Society in the UK provides information and a helpline for eczema patients, families, and caregivers
Medinfo provides information for eczema patients
Wikipedia has more information about water softening (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000395
PMCID: PMC3039684  PMID: 21358807
5.  Severe Eczema in Infancy Can Predict Asthma Development. A Prospective Study to the Age of 10 Years 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99609.
Background
Children with atopic eczema in infancy often develop allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and asthma, but the term “atopic march” has been questioned as the relations between atopic disorders seem more complicated than one condition progressing into another.
Objective
In this prospective multicenter study we followed children with eczema from infancy to the age of 10 years focusing on sensitization to allergens, severity of eczema and development of allergic airway symptoms at 4.5 and 10 years of age.
Methods
On inclusion, 123 children were examined. Hanifin-Rajka criteria and SCORAD index were used to describe the eczema. Episodes of wheezing were registered, skin prick tests and IgE tests were conducted and questionnaires were filled out. Procedures were repeated at 4.5 and 10 years of age with additional examinations for ARC and asthma.
Results
94 out of 123 completed the entire study. High SCORAD points on inclusion were correlated with the risk of developing ARC, (B = 9.86, P = 0.01) and asthma, (B = 10.17, P = 0.01). For infants with eczema and wheezing at the first visit, the OR for developing asthma was 4.05(P = 0.01). ARC at 4.5 years of age resulted in an OR of 11.28(P = 0.00) for asthma development at 10 years.
Conclusion
This study indicates that infant eczema with high SCORAD points is associated with an increased risk of asthma at 10 years of age. Children with eczema and wheezing episodes during infancy are more likely to develop asthma than are infants with eczema alone. Eczema in infancy combined with early onset of ARC seems to indicate a more severe allergic disease, which often leads to asthma development. The progression from eczema in infancy to ARC at an early age and asthma later in childhood shown in this study supports the relevance of the term “atopic march”, at least in more severe allergic disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099609
PMCID: PMC4051764  PMID: 24914552
6.  Eczema in early childhood is strongly associated with the development of asthma and rhinitis in a prospective cohort 
BMC Dermatology  2012;12:11.
Background
This study aimed to estimate the association between eczema in early childhood and the onset of asthma and rhinitis later in life in children.
Methods
A total of 3,124 children aged 1–2 years were included in the Dampness in Building and Health (DBH) study in the year 2000, and followed up 5 years later by a parental questionnaire based on an International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood protocol. The association between eczema in early childhood and the incidence of asthma and rhinitis later in life was estimated by univariable and multivariable logistic regression modelling.
Results
The prevalence of eczema in children aged 1–2 years was 17.6% at baseline. Children with eczema had a 3-fold increased odds of developing asthma (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 3.07; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.79–5.27), and a nearly 3-fold increased odds of developing rhinitis (aOR, 2.63; 1.85–3.73) at follow-up compared with children without eczema, adjusted for age, sex, parental allergic disease, parental smoking, length of breastfeeding, site of living, polyvinylchloride flooring material, and concomitant allergic disease. When eczema was divided into subgroups, moderate to severe eczema (aOR, 3.56; 1.62–7.83 and aOR, 3.87; 2.37–6.33, respectively), early onset of eczema (aOR, 3.44; 1.94–6.09 and aOR, 4.05; 2.82–5.81; respectively), and persistence of eczema (aOR, 5.16; 2.62–10.18 and aOR, 4.00; 2.53–6.22, respectively) further increased the odds of developing asthma and rhinitis. Further independent risk factors increasing the odds of developing asthma were a parental history of allergic disease (aOR, 1.83; 1.29–2.60) and a period of breast feeding shorter than 6 months (aOR, 1.57; 1.03–2.39). The incidence of rhinitis was increased for parental history of allergic disease (aOR, 2.00; 1.59–2.51) and polyvinylchloride flooring (aOR, 1.60; 1.02–2.51).
Conclusion
Eczema in infancy is associated with development of asthma and rhinitis during the following 5-year period, and eczema is one of the strongest risk factors. Early identification is valuable for prediction of the atopic march.
doi:10.1186/1471-5945-12-11
PMCID: PMC3469362  PMID: 22839963
7.  Active or Passive Exposure to Tobacco Smoking and Allergic Rhinitis, Allergic Dermatitis, and Food Allergy in Adults and Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001611.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Bahi Takkouche and colleagues examine the associations between exposure to tobacco smoke and allergic disorders in children and adults.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Allergic rhinitis, allergic dermatitis, and food allergy are extremely common diseases, especially among children, and are frequently associated to each other and to asthma. Smoking is a potential risk factor for these conditions, but so far, results from individual studies have been conflicting. The objective of this study was to examine the evidence for an association between active smoking (AS) or passive exposure to secondhand smoke and allergic conditions.
Methods and Findings
We retrieved studies published in any language up to June 30th, 2013 by systematically searching Medline, Embase, the five regional bibliographic databases of the World Health Organization, and ISI-Proceedings databases, by manually examining the references of the original articles and reviews retrieved, and by establishing personal contact with clinical researchers. We included cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies reporting odds ratio (OR) or relative risk (RR) estimates and confidence intervals of smoking and allergic conditions, first among the general population and then among children.
We retrieved 97 studies on allergic rhinitis, 91 on allergic dermatitis, and eight on food allergy published in 139 different articles. When all studies were analyzed together (showing random effects model results and pooled ORs expressed as RR), allergic rhinitis was not associated with active smoking (pooled RR, 1.02 [95% CI 0.92–1.15]), but was associated with passive smoking (pooled RR 1.10 [95% CI 1.06–1.15]). Allergic dermatitis was associated with both active (pooled RR, 1.21 [95% CI 1.14–1.29]) and passive smoking (pooled RR, 1.07 [95% CI 1.03–1.12]). In children and adolescent, allergic rhinitis was associated with active (pooled RR, 1.40 (95% CI 1.24–1.59) and passive smoking (pooled RR, 1.09 [95% CI 1.04–1.14]). Allergic dermatitis was associated with active (pooled RR, 1.36 [95% CI 1.17–1.46]) and passive smoking (pooled RR, 1.06 [95% CI 1.01–1.11]). Food allergy was associated with SHS (1.43 [1.12–1.83]) when cohort studies only were examined, but not when all studies were combined.
The findings are limited by the potential for confounding and bias given that most of the individual studies used a cross-sectional design. Furthermore, the studies showed a high degree of heterogeneity and the exposure and outcome measures were assessed by self-report, which may increase the potential for misclassification.
Conclusions
We observed very modest associations between smoking and some allergic diseases among adults. Among children and adolescents, both active and passive exposure to SHS were associated with a modest increased risk for allergic diseases, and passive smoking was associated with an increased risk for food allergy. Additional studies with detailed measurement of exposure and better case definition are needed to further explore the role of smoking in allergic diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The immune system protects the human body from viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Whenever a pathogen enters the body, immune system cells called T lymphocytes recognize specific molecules on its surface and release chemical messengers that recruit and activate other types of immune cells, which then attack the pathogen. Sometimes, however, the immune system responds to harmless materials (for example, pollen; scientists call these materials allergens) and triggers an allergic disease such as allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the inside of the nose; hay fever is a type of allergic rhinitis), allergic dermatitis (also known as eczema, a disease characterized by dry, itchy patches on the skin), and food allergy. Recent studies suggest that all these allergic (atopic) diseases are part of a continuous state called the “atopic march” in which individuals develop allergic diseases in a specific sequence that starts with allergic dermatitis during infancy, and progresses to food allergy, allergic rhinitis, and finally asthma (inflammation of the airways).
Why Was This Study Done?
Allergic diseases are extremely common, particularly in children. Allergic rhinitis alone affects 10%–30% of the world's population and up to 40% of children in some countries. Moreover, allergic diseases are becoming increasingly common. Allergic diseases affect the quality of life of patients and are financially costly to both patients and health systems. It is important, therefore, to identify the factors that cause or potentiate their development. One potential risk factor for allergic diseases is active or passive exposure to tobacco smoke. In some countries up to 80% of children are exposed to second-hand smoke so, from a public health point of view, it would be useful to know whether exposure to tobacco smoke is associated with the development of allergic diseases. Here, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and a meta-analysis (a statistical approach for combining the results of several studies) to investigate this issue.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 196 observational studies (investigations that observe outcomes in populations without trying to affect these outcomes in any way) that examined the association between smoke exposure and allergic rhinitis, allergic dermatitis, or food allergy. When all studies were analyzed together, allergic rhinitis was not associated with active smoking but was slightly associated with exposure to second-hand smoke. Specifically, compared to people not exposed to second-hand smoke, the pooled relative risk (RR) of allergic rhinitis among people exposed to second-hand smoke was 1.10 (an RR of greater than 1 indicates an increased risk of disease development in an exposed population compared to an unexposed population). Allergic dermatitis was associated with both active smoking (RR = 1.21) and exposure to second-hand smoke (RR = 1.07). In the populations of children and adolescents included in the studies, allergic rhinitis was associated with both active smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke (RRs of 1.40 and 1.09, respectively), as was allergic dermatitis (RRs of 1.36 and 1.06, respectively). Finally food allergy was associated with exposure to second-hand smoke (RR = 1.43) when cohort studies (a specific type of observational study) only were examined but not when all the studies were combined.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide limited evidence for a weak association between smoke exposure and allergic disease in adults but suggest that both active and passive smoking are associated with a modestly increased risk of allergic diseases in children and adolescents. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by the use of questionnaires to assess smoke exposure and allergic disease development in most of the studies in the meta-analysis and by the possibility that individuals exposed to smoke may have shared other characteristics that were actually responsible for their increased risk of allergic diseases. To shed more light on the role of smoking in allergic diseases, additional studies are needed that accurately measure exposure and outcomes. However, the present findings suggest that, in countries where many people smoke, 14% and 13% of allergic rhinitis and allergic dermatitis, respectively, among children may be attributable to active smoking. Thus, the elimination of active smoking among children and adolescents could prevent one in seven cases of allergic rhinitis and one in eight cases of allergic dermatitis in such countries.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001611.
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about allergic rhinitis, hay fever (including personal stories), allergic dermatitis (including personal stories), and food allergy (including personal stories)
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease provides information about allergic diseases
The UK not-for-profit organization Allergy UK provides information about all aspects of allergic diseases and a description of the atopic march
MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on allergic rhinitis and allergic dermatitis (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about allergies, eczema, and food allergy (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001611
PMCID: PMC3949681  PMID: 24618794
8.  Association of Adenotonsillectomy with Asthma Outcomes in Children: A Longitudinal Database Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001753.
Rakesh Bhattacharjee and colleagues use data from a US private health insurance database to compare asthma severity measures in children one year before and one year after they underwent adenotonsillectomy with asthma measures in those who did not undergo adenotonsillectomy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), both disorders of airway inflammation, were associated in recent observational studies. Although childhood OSA is effectively treated by adenotonsillectomy (AT), it remains unclear whether AT also improves childhood asthma. We hypothesized that AT, the first line of therapy for childhood OSA, would be associated with improved asthma outcomes and would reduce the usage of asthma therapies in children.
Methods and Findings
Using the 2003–2010 MarketScan database, we identified 13,506 children with asthma in the United States who underwent AT. Asthma outcomes during 1 y preceding AT were compared to those during 1 y following AT. In addition, 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma without AT were included to examine asthma outcomes among children without known adenotonsillar tissue morbidity. Primary outcomes included the occurrence of a diagnostic code for acute asthma exacerbation (AAE) or acute status asthmaticus (ASA). Secondary outcomes included temporal changes in asthma medication prescriptions, the frequency of asthma-related emergency room visits (ARERs), and asthma-related hospitalizations (ARHs). Comparing the year following AT to the year prior, AT was associated with significant reductions in AAE (30.2%; 95% CI: 25.6%–34.3%; p<0.0001), ASA (37.9%; 95% CI: 29.2%–45.6%; p<0.0001), ARERs (25.6%; 95% CI: 16.9%–33.3%; p<0.0001), and ARHs (35.8%; 95% CI: 19.6%–48.7%; p = 0.02). Moreover, AT was associated with significant reductions in most asthma prescription refills, including bronchodilators (16.7%; 95% CI: 16.1%–17.3%; p<0.001), inhaled corticosteroids (21.5%; 95% CI: 20.7%–22.3%; p<0.001), leukotriene receptor antagonists (13.4%; 95% CI: 12.9%–14.0%; p<0.001), and systemic corticosteroids (23.7%; 95% CI: 20.9%–26.5%; p<0.001). In contrast, there were no significant reductions in these outcomes in children with asthma who did not undergo AT over an overlapping follow-up period. Limitations of the MarketScan database include lack of information on race and obesity status. Also, the MarketScan database does not include information on children with public health insurance (i.e., Medicaid) or uninsured children.
Conclusions
In a very large sample of privately insured children, AT was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. Contingent on validation through prospectively designed clinical trials, this study supports the premise that detection and treatment of adenotonsillar tissue morbidity may serve as an important strategy for improving asthma control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The global burden of asthma has been rising steadily over the past few decades. Nowadays, about 200–300 million adults and children worldwide are affected by asthma, a chronic condition caused by inflammation of the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs). Although asthma can develop at any age, it is often diagnosed in childhood—asthma is one of the commonest chronic diseases in children. In the US, for example, asthma affects around 7.1 million children under the age of 18 years and is the third leading cause of hospitalization of children under the age of 15 years. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur or to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Exercise, cold air, and infections can trigger asthma attacks, which can be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
Why Was This Study Done?
Recent studies have found an association between severe childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, airway inflammation promotes hypertrophy (excess growth) of the adenoids and the tonsils, immune system tissues in the upper airway. During sleep, the presence of hypertrophic adenotonsillar tissues predisposes the walls of the throat to collapse, which results in apnea—a brief interruption in breathing. People with OSA often snore loudly and frequently wake from deep sleep as they struggle to breathe. Childhood OSA, which affects 2%–3% of children, can be effectively treated by removal of the adenoids and tonsils (adenotonsillectomy). Given the association between childhood OSA and severe asthma and given the involvement of airway inflammation in both conditions, might adenotonsillectomy also improve childhood asthma? Here, the researchers analyze data from the MarketScan database, a large database of US patients with private health insurance, to investigate whether adenotonsillectomy is associated with improvements in asthma outcomes and with reductions in the use of asthma therapies in children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the database to identify 13,506 children with asthma who had undergone adenotonsillectomy and to obtain information about asthma outcomes among these children for the year before and the year after the operation. Because asthma severity tends to decrease with age, the researchers also used the database to identify 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma who did not have the operation so that they could examine asthma outcomes over an equivalent two-year period in the absence of complications related to adenotonsillar hypertrophy. Comparing the year after adenotonsillectomy with the year before the operation, adenotonsillectomy was associated with a 30% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations, a 37.9% reduction in acute status asthmaticus (an asthma attack that is unresponsive to the drugs usually used to treat attacks), a 25.6% reduction in asthma-related emergency room visits, and a 35.8% reduction in asthma-related hospitalizations. By contrast, among the control children, there was only a 2% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations and only a 7% reduction in acute status asthmaticus over an equivalent two-year period. Adenotonsillectomy was also associated with significant reductions (changes unlikely to have occurred by chance) in prescription refills for most types of drugs used to treat asthma, whereas there were no significant reductions in prescription refills among children with asthma who had not undergone adenotonsillectomy. The study was limited by the lack of measures of race and obesity, which are both associated with severity of asthma.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in a large sample of privately insured children in the US, adenotonsillectomy was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. These results do not show, however, that adenotonsillectomy caused a reduction in the severity of childhood asthma. It could be that the children who underwent adenotonsillectomy (but not those who did not have the operation) shared another unknown factor that led to improvements in their asthma over time. To prove a causal link, it will be necessary to undertake a randomized controlled trial in which the outcomes of groups of children with asthma who are chosen at random to undergo or not undergo adenotonsillectomy are compared. However, with the proviso that there are some risks associated with adenotonsillectomy, these findings suggest that the detection and treatment of adenotonsillar hypertrophy may help to improve asthma control in children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001753.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on asthma, including videos, games, and links to other resources for children with asthma
The American Lung Association provides detailed information about asthma and a fact sheet on asthma in children; it also has information about obstructive sleep apnea
The National Sleep Foundation provides information on snoring and obstructive sleep apnea in children
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including some personal stories) about asthma, about asthma in children, and about obstructive sleep apnea
The “Global Asthma Report 2014” will be available in October 2014
MedlinePlus provides links to further information on asthma, on asthma in children, on sleep apnea, and on tonsils and adenoids (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001753
PMCID: PMC4219664  PMID: 25369282
9.  Filaggrin gene defects and risk of developing allergic sensitisation and allergic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis 
Objective To investigate whether filaggrin gene defects, present in up to one in 10 western Europeans and North Americans, increase the risk of developing allergic sensitisation and allergic disorders.
Design Systematic review and meta-analysis.
Data sources Medline, Embase, ISI Science Citation Index, BIOSIS, ISI Web of Knowledge, UK National Research Register, clinical trials.gov, the Index to Theses and Digital dissertations, and grey literature using OpenSIGLE.
Study selection Genetic epidemiological studies (family, case-control) of the association between filaggrin gene defects and allergic sensitisation or allergic disorders.
Data extraction Atopic eczema or dermatitis, food allergy, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and anaphylaxis, along with relevant immunological variables relating to the risk of allergic sensitisation as assessed by either positive skin prick testing or increased levels of allergen specific IgE.
Data synthesis 24 studies were included. The odds of developing allergic sensitisation was 1.91 (95% confidence interval 1.44 to 2.54) in the family studies and 1.57 (1.20 to 2.07) in the case-control studies. The odds of developing atopic eczema was 1.99 (1.72 to 2.31) in the family studies and 4.78 (3.31 to 6.92) in the case-control studies. Three studies investigated the association between filaggrin gene mutations and allergic rhinitis in people without atopic eczema: overall odds ratio 1.78 (1.16 to 2.73). The four studies that investigated the association between filaggrin gene mutations and allergic rhinitis in people with atopic eczema reported a significant association: pooled odds ratio from case-control studies 2.84 (2.08 to 3.88). An overall odds ratio for the association between filaggrin gene mutations and asthma in people with atopic eczema was 2.79 (1.77 to 4.41) in case-control studies and 2.30 (1.66 to 3.18) in family studies. None of the studies that investigated filaggrin gene mutations and asthma in people without atopic eczema reported a significant association; overall odds ratio was 1.30 (0.7 to 2.30) in the case-control studies. The funnel plots suggested that publication bias was unlikely to be an explanation for these findings. No studies investigated the association between filaggrin gene mutations and food allergy or anaphylaxis.
Conclusions Filaggrin gene defects increase the risk of developing allergic sensitisation, atopic eczema, and allergic rhinitis. Evidence of the relation between filaggrin gene mutations and atopic eczema was strong, with people manifesting increased severity and persistence of disease. Filaggrin gene mutations also increased the risk of asthma in people with atopic eczema. Restoring skin barrier function in filaggrin deficient people in early life may help prevent the development of sensitisation and halt the development and progression of allergic disease.
doi:10.1136/bmj.b2433
PMCID: PMC2714678  PMID: 19589816
10.  Maternal intestinal flora and wheeze in early childhood 
Background
Increasing evidence links altered intestinal flora in infancy to eczema and asthma. No studies have investigated the influence of maternal intestinal flora on wheezing and eczema in early childhood.
Objective
To investigate the link between maternal intestinal flora during pregnancy and development of wheeze and eczema in infancy.
Methods
Sixty pregnant women from the Boston area gave stool samples during the third trimester of their pregnancy and answered questions during pregnancy about their own health, and about their children’s health when the child was 2 and 6 months of age. Quantitative culture was performed on stool samples and measured in log10colony-forming units(CFU)/gram stool. Primary outcomes included infant wheeze and eczema in the first 6 months of life. Atopic wheeze, defined as wheeze and eczema, was analyzed as a secondary outcome.
Results
In multivariate models adjusted for breastfeeding, daycare attendance and maternal atopy, higher counts of maternal total aerobes (TA) and enterococci (E) were associated with increased risk of infant wheeze (TA: OR 2.32 for 1 log increase in CFU/g stool [95% CI 1.22, 4.42]; E: OR 1.57 [95% CI 1.06, 2.31]). No organisms were associated with either eczema or atopic wheeze.
Conclusions & Clinical Relevance
In our cohort, higher maternal total aerobes and enterococci were related to increased risk of infant wheeze. Maternal intestinal flora may be an important environmental exposure in early immune system development.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2222.2011.03950.x
PMCID: PMC3428746  PMID: 22909161
infant wheeze; eczema; asthma; microbiota; intestinal flora; maternal flora
11.  Prenatal Exposure to Butylbenzyl Phthalate and Early Eczema in an Urban Cohort 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2012;120(10):1475-1480.
Background: Recent cross-sectional studies suggest a link between butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP) in house dust and childhood eczema.
Objectives: We aimed to evaluate whether concentrations of monobenzyl phthalate (MBzP), the main BBzP metabolite in urine, during pregnancy are associated prospectively with eczema in young children, and whether this association varies by the child’s sensitization to indoor allergens or serological evidence of any allergies.
Methods: MBzP was measured in spot urine samples during the third trimester of pregnancy from 407 African-American and Dominican women residing in New York City in 1999–2006. Repeated questionnaires asked mothers whether their doctor ever said their child had eczema. Child blood samples at 24, 36, and 60 months of age were analyzed for total, anti-cockroach, dust mite, and mouse IgE. Relative risks (RR) were estimated with multivariable modified Poisson regression. Analyses included a multinomial logistic regression model for early- and late-onset eczema versus no eczema through 60 months of age.
Results: MBzP was detected in > 99% of samples (geometric mean = 13.6; interquartile range: 5.7–31.1 ng/mL). By 24 months, 30% of children developed eczema, with the proportion higher among African Americans (48%) than among Dominicans (21%) (p < 0.001). An interquartile range increase in log MBzP concentration was associated positively with early-onset eczema (RR = 1.52 for eczema by 24 months; 95% confidence interval: 1.21, 1.91, p = 0.0003, n = 113 reporting eczema/376 total sample), adjusting for urine specific gravity, sex, and race/ethnicity. MBzP was not associated with allergic sensitization, nor did seroatopy modify consistently the MBzP and eczema association.
Conclusions: Prenatal exposure to BBzP may influence the risk of developing eczema in early childhood.
doi:10.1289/ehp.1104544
PMCID: PMC3491925  PMID: 22732598
butylbenzyl phthalate; eczema; plasticizers
12.  Probiotic milk consumption in pregnancy and infancy and subsequent childhood allergic diseases 
Background
Whether probiotics, which can influence the microbiome, prevent infant eczema or allergic diseases remains an open question. Most studies have focused on high-risk infants.
Objectives
To assess whether consumption of probiotic milk products protects against atopic eczema, rhinoconjuctivitis, and asthma in early childhood in a large population-based pregnancy cohort (The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study).
Methods
We examined associations between consumption of probiotic milk products in pregnancy and infancy with questionnaire-reported atopic eczema, rhinoconjuctivitis, and asthma in 40,614 children. Relative risks (RR) were calculated using general linear models, adjusted for potential confounders.
Results
Consumption of probiotic milk in pregnancy was associated with a slightly reduced risk [(adjusted RR (aRR)] of atopic eczema at 6 months aRR=0.94 (95% CI: 0.89, 0.99) and of rhinoconjuctivitis between 18 and 36 months, aRR=0.87 (95% CI: 0.78, 0.98) compared with no consumption during pregnancy. Maternal history of allergic disease did not notably influence the associations. When both mother (during pregnancy) and infant (after 6 months of age) had consumed probiotic milk, the adjusted relative risk of rhinoconjunctivitis was aRR=0.80 (95% CI: 0.68, 0.93) relative to no consumption by either. Probiotic milk consumption was not associated with asthma at 36 months.
Conclusions
In this population-based cohort, consumption of probiotic milk products was related to a reduced incidence of atopic eczema and rhinoconjuctivitis, but no association was seen for incidence of asthma by 36 months of age.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2013.07.032
PMCID: PMC3912862  PMID: 24034345
allergy; asthma; eczema; microbiome; MoBa; probiotics; rhinoconjunctivitis
13.  Is there an association between wheezing and constipation in preschool children? Explanations from a longitudinal birth cohort 
BMJ Open  2011;1(2):e000237.
Objective
To assess whether wheezing and atopic dermatitis were associated with constipation in preschool children and to what extent shared risk factors contribute to this relationship.
Methods
A population-based sample of 4651 preschool children was used. At the age of 24, 36 and 48 months, a parental report of functional constipation was available according to the Rome II criteria, and data on atopic dermatitis and wheezing were available using age-adapted questionnaires from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. Stepwise multivariate analyses were performed to assess whether body mass index, infection exposure, food allergy and infant nutrition, and parental stress explained the association between wheezing, atopic dermatitis and constipation.
Results
Out of 4651 children, 12–17% had functional constipation between 24 and 48 months. Symptoms of wheezing decreased from 20% to 12% and atopic dermatitis decreased from 30% to 18% at the age of 24 and 48 months respectively. Between the age of 24 and 48 months, wheezing symptoms were significantly associated with functional constipation (OR 1.17; 1.02 to 1.34) but these results were mainly explained by the child's exposure to infections and use of antibiotics (adjusted odds ratio 1.08; 95% CI 0.95 to 1.24). No significant association was found between symptoms of atopic dermatitis and functional constipation (OR 1.08; 95% CI 0.94 to 1.23).
Conclusions
These findings suggest that functional constipation coexists with wheezing in childhood but is mainly explained by the child's infection exposure and use of antibiotics. Therefore, an independent association between respiratory symptoms and functional bowel disorders as suggested in previous studies is questionable.
Article summary
Article focus
Constipation, wheezing and atopic dermatitis are common symptoms in children.
Functional bowel disorders are linked to asthma and atopy in adults.
Functional bowel disorders, asthma and atopic disease may share common risk-factors that may explain coexistence of these symptoms.
Key messages
Wheezing, but not atopic dermatitis, is associated with functional constipation in preschool children. The association is mainly explained by a history of infection exposure.
Hence, the association between wheezing and functional constipation is not independent. Further research is needed to explore whether this result also applies to the outcome of asthma.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Population-based study population. The study group were not selected according to medical care.
This study addresses a topical area that has not been studied sufficiently and can contribute to the discussion of how asthma or atopy may be associated with functional bowel disorders.
This study took into account multiple shared risk factors of wheezing and constipation to shed light on the suggested association in literature.
Symptoms were available only from parental-reported questionnaires. This may lead to misclassification of the symptoms.
Early wheezing in infancy is not a sufficient predictor of childhood asthma.
No data were available regarding parental concerns of the child's health status. Bias may occur when parents with high concerns are more likely to report symptoms in their child as wheezing, constipation and infectious disease.
No data were available on IgE sensitisation, thus conclusions on the assocation between allergic disease and constipation should be made with caution.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000237
PMCID: PMC3191603  PMID: 22021889
14.  Polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and prevalence of eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis in Japanese children: The Ryukyus Child Health Study 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:358.
Background
The recent increase in the prevalence of allergic disorders might be a consequence of increased intake of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and reduced intake of n-3 PUFAs. The current cross-sectional study examined the association between intake levels and the prevalence of eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis in Japanese children.
Methods
Subjects were 23,388 schoolchildren aged 6-15 years residing in Okinawa. The presence of eczema and/or rhinoconjunctivitis was determined according to the criteria of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. A brief diet history questionnaire for children and adolescents was administered to acquire information on dietary factors. Adjustment was made for age, sex, residential municipality, number of siblings, smoking in the household, body mass index, paternal and maternal history of allergic diseases, and paternal and maternal educational level.
Results
The prevalences of eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis in the previous 12 months were 7.0% and 8.0%, respectively. Consumption of PUFAs, n-3 PUFAs, α-linolenic acid, n-6 PUFAs, and linoleic acid was positively associated with the prevalence of eczema: the adjusted odds ratios (ORs) between extreme quintiles (95% confidence intervals [CIs], P for trend) were 1.26 (1.07-1.48, 0.04), 1.31 (1.11-1.54, 0.009), 1.31 (1.12-1.55, 0.003), 1.26 (1.07-1.48, 0.01), and 1.27 (1.08-1.49, 0.01), respectively. Arachidonic acid intake was independently inversely related to eczema: the adjusted OR between extreme quintiles was 0.81 (0.69-0.95, 0.0008). Eczema was not associated with eicosapentaenoic or docosahexaenoic acid intake, or with the ratio of n-3 to n-6 PUFA intake. Only arachidonic acid intake was statistically significantly related to the prevalence of rhinoconjunctivitis, showing a clear inverse linear trend: the adjusted OR between extreme quintiles was 0.86 (0.74-0.997, 0.03).
Conclusions
Consumption of n-3 and n-6 PUFAs, especially α-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, may be positively associated with eczema. Arachidonic acid intake may be inversely related to eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-358
PMCID: PMC3112140  PMID: 21599987
15.  Antibiotic exposure in the first two years of life and development of asthma and other allergic diseases by 7.5 yr: A dose-dependent relationship 
Pediatric Allergy and Immunology  2013;24(8):762-771.
To cite this article: Hoskin-Parr L, Teyhan A, Blocker A, Henderson AJW. Antibiotic exposure in the first two years of life and development of asthma and other allergic diseases by 7.5 yr: a dose-dependent relationship. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2013: 24: 762–771.
Background
Antibiotic use in infancy disrupts gut microflora during a critical period for immune system development. It is hypothesized that this could predispose to the development of allergic diseases. We investigated the associations of antibiotic use in the first 2 yr of life with the development of asthma, eczema or hay fever by age 7.5 yr in a longitudinal birth cohort.
Methods
Subjects were 4952 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Child antibiotic use and asthma, eczema and hay fever symptoms were maternally reported. Atopy was assessed by skin prick tests at age 7.5 yr. The total number of antibiotic courses was considered as the main exposure. Data were analysed using multivariate logistic regression.
Results
Children reported to have taken antibiotics during infancy (0–2 yr) were more likely to have asthma at 7.5 yr (OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.40–2.17), and the odds (OR, [95% CI]) increased with greater numbers of courses: once 1.11 [0.84–1.48]; twice 1.50 [1.14–1.98]; three times 1.79 [1.34–2.40]; four times or more 2.82 [2.19–3.63]. Increased antibiotic use was also associated with higher odds of eczema and hay fever but not atopy. The effect appeared to be associated with cumulative rather than a critical period of exposure during the first 2 yr.
Conclusions
A robust and dose-dependent association was found between antibiotic use in the first 2 yr of life and asthma at age 7.5 yr but did not appear to be mediated through an association with atopy.
doi:10.1111/pai.12153
PMCID: PMC3995010  PMID: 24299467
Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children; antibiotics; atopy; childhood asthma; eczema; hay fever; wheeze
16.  Association of variants in innate immune genes with asthma and eczema 
Background
The innate immune pathway is important in the pathogenesis of asthma and eczema. However, only a few variants in these genes have been associated with either disease. We investigate the association between polymorphisms of genes in the innate immune pathway with childhood asthma and eczema. In addition, we compare individual associations with those discovered using a multivariate approach.
Methods
Using a novel method, case control based association testing (C2BAT), 569 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 44 innate immune genes were tested for association with asthma and eczema in children from the Boston Home Allergens and Asthma Study and the Connecticut Childhood Asthma Study. The screening algorithm was used to identify the top SNPs associated with asthma and eczema. We next investigated the interaction of innate immune variants with asthma and eczema risk using Bayesian networks.
Results
After correction for multiple comparisons, 7 SNPs in 6 genes (CARD25, TGFB1, LY96, ACAA1, DEFB1, and IFNG) were associated with asthma (adjusted p-value<0.02), while 5 SNPs in 3 different genes (CD80, STAT4, and IRAKI) were significantly associated with eczema (adjusted p-value < 0.02). None of these SNPs were associated with both asthma and eczema. Bayesian network analysis identified 4 SNPs that were predictive of asthma and 10 SNPs that predicted eczema. Of the genes identified using Bayesian networks, only CD80 was associated with eczema in the single-SNP study. Using novel methodology that allows for screening and replication in the same population, we have identified associations of innate immune genes with asthma and eczema. Bayesian network analysis suggests that additional SNPs influence disease susceptibility via SNP interactions.
Conclusion
Our findings suggest that innate immune genes contribute to the pathogenesis of asthma and eczema, and that these diseases likely have different genetic determinants.
doi:10.1111/j.1399-3038.2011.01243.x
PMCID: PMC3412627  PMID: 22192168
asthma; Bayesian network; genetic association; eczema; innate immunity
17.  Preterm Birth and Childhood Wheezing Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001596.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Jasper Been and colleagues investigate the association between preterm birth and the development of wheezing disorders in childhood.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Accumulating evidence implicates early life factors in the aetiology of non-communicable diseases, including asthma/wheezing disorders. We undertook a systematic review investigating risks of asthma/wheezing disorders in children born preterm, including the increasing numbers who, as a result of advances in neonatal care, now survive very preterm birth.
Methods and Findings
Two reviewers independently searched seven online databases for contemporaneous (1 January 1995–23 September 2013) epidemiological studies investigating the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders. Additional studies were identified through reference and citation searches, and contacting international experts. Quality appraisal was undertaken using the Effective Public Health Practice Project instrument. We pooled unadjusted and adjusted effect estimates using random-effects meta-analysis, investigated “dose–response” associations, and undertook subgroup, sensitivity, and meta-regression analyses to assess the robustness of associations.
We identified 42 eligible studies from six continents. Twelve were excluded for population overlap, leaving 30 unique studies involving 1,543,639 children. Preterm birth was associated with an increased risk of wheezing disorders in unadjusted (13.7% versus 8.3%; odds ratio [OR] 1.71, 95% CI 1.57–1.87; 26 studies including 1,500,916 children) and adjusted analyses (OR 1.46, 95% CI 1.29–1.65; 17 studies including 874,710 children). The risk was particularly high among children born very preterm (<32 wk gestation; unadjusted: OR 3.00, 95% CI 2.61–3.44; adjusted: OR 2.81, 95% CI 2.55–3.12). Findings were most pronounced for studies with low risk of bias and were consistent across sensitivity analyses. The estimated population-attributable risk of preterm birth for childhood wheezing disorders was ≥3.1%.
Key limitations related to the paucity of data from low- and middle-income countries, and risk of residual confounding.
Conclusions
There is compelling evidence that preterm birth—particularly very preterm birth—increases the risk of asthma. Given the projected global increases in children surviving preterm births, research now needs to focus on understanding underlying mechanisms, and then to translate these insights into the development of preventive interventions.
Review Registration
PROSPERO CRD42013004965
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, but worldwide, more than 11% of babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother's womb). Preterm birth is a major cause of infant death—more than 1 million babies die annually from preterm birth complications—and the number of preterm births is increasing globally. Multiple pregnancies, infections, and chronic (long-term) maternal conditions such as diabetes can all cause premature birth, but the cause of many preterm births is unknown. The most obvious immediate complication that is associated with preterm birth is respiratory distress syndrome. This breathing problem, which is more common in early preterm babies than in near-term babies, occurs because the lungs of premature babies are structurally immature and lack pulmonary surfactant, a unique mixture of lipids and proteins that coats the inner lining of the lungs and helps to prevent the collapse of the small air sacs in the lungs that absorb oxygen from the air. Consequently, preterm babies often need help with their breathing and oxygen supplementation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Improvements in the management of prematurity mean that more preterm babies survive today than in the past. However, accumulating evidence suggests that early life events are involved in the subsequent development of non-communicable diseases (non-infectious chronic diseases). Given the increasing burden of preterm birth, a better understanding of the long-term effects of preterm birth is essential. Here, the researchers investigate the risks of asthma and wheezing disorders in children who are born preterm by undertaking a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and a meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of several studies). Asthma is a chronic condition that is caused by inflammation of the airways. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur and to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Exercise, cold air, and infections can also trigger asthma attacks, which can sometimes be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing), coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 30 studies undertaken between 1995 and the present (a time span chosen to allow for recent changes in the management of prematurity) that investigated the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders in more than 1.5 million children. Across the studies, 13.7% of preterm babies developed asthma/wheezing disorders during childhood, compared to only 8.3% of babies born at term. Thus, the risk of preterm babies developing asthma or a wheezing disorder during childhood was 1.71 times higher than the risk of term babies developing these conditions (an unadjusted odds ratio [OR] of 1.71). In analyses that allowed for confounding factors—other factors that affect the risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders such as maternal smoking—the risk of preterm babies developing asthma or a wheezing disorder during childhood was 1.46 times higher than that of babies born at term (an adjusted OR of 1.46). Notably, compared to children born at term, children born very early (before 32 weeks of gestation) had about three times the risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders in unadjusted and adjusted analyses. Finally, the population-attributable risk of preterm birth for childhood wheezing disorders was more than 3.1%. That is, if no preterm births had occurred, there would have been more than a 3.1% reduction in childhood wheezing disorders.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings strongly suggest that preterm birth increases the risk of asthma and wheezing disorders during childhood and that the risk of asthma/wheezing disorders increases as the degree of prematurity increases. The accuracy of these findings may be affected, however, by residual confounding. That is, preterm children may share other, unknown characteristics that increase their risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders. Moreover, the generalizability of these findings is limited by the lack of data from low- and middle-income countries. However, given the projected global increases in children surviving preterm births, these findings highlight the need to undertake research into the mechanisms underlying the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders and the need to develop appropriate preventative and therapeutic measures.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001596.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
Nemours, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information (in English and Spanish) on premature babies and on asthma (including personal stories)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about premature labor and birth and a real story about having a preterm baby; it provides information about asthma in children (including real stories)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on preterm birth, asthma, asthma in children, and wheezing (in English and Spanish); MedlinePlus provides links to further information on premature birth, asthma, and asthma in children (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001596
PMCID: PMC3904844  PMID: 24492409
18.  Effects of BMI, Fat Mass, and Lean Mass on Asthma in Childhood: A Mendelian Randomization Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001669.
In this study, Granell and colleagues used Mendelian randomization to investigate causal effects of BMI, fat mass, and lean mass on current asthma at age 7½ years in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and found that higher BMI increases the risk of asthma in mid-childhood.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Observational studies have reported associations between body mass index (BMI) and asthma, but confounding and reverse causality remain plausible explanations. We aim to investigate evidence for a causal effect of BMI on asthma using a Mendelian randomization approach.
Methods and Findings
We used Mendelian randomization to investigate causal effects of BMI, fat mass, and lean mass on current asthma at age 7½ y in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). A weighted allele score based on 32 independent BMI-related single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was derived from external data, and associations with BMI, fat mass, lean mass, and asthma were estimated. We derived instrumental variable (IV) estimates of causal risk ratios (RRs). 4,835 children had available data on BMI-associated SNPs, asthma, and BMI. The weighted allele score was strongly associated with BMI, fat mass, and lean mass (all p-values<0.001) and with childhood asthma (RR 2.56, 95% CI 1.38–4.76 per unit score, p = 0.003). The estimated causal RR for the effect of BMI on asthma was 1.55 (95% CI 1.16–2.07) per kg/m2, p = 0.003. This effect appeared stronger for non-atopic (1.90, 95% CI 1.19–3.03) than for atopic asthma (1.37, 95% CI 0.89–2.11) though there was little evidence of heterogeneity (p = 0.31). The estimated causal RRs for the effects of fat mass and lean mass on asthma were 1.41 (95% CI 1.11–1.79) per 0.5 kg and 2.25 (95% CI 1.23–4.11) per kg, respectively. The possibility of genetic pleiotropy could not be discounted completely; however, additional IV analyses using FTO variant rs1558902 and the other BMI-related SNPs separately provided similar causal effects with wider confidence intervals. Loss of follow-up was unlikely to bias the estimated effects.
Conclusions
Higher BMI increases the risk of asthma in mid-childhood. Higher BMI may have contributed to the increase in asthma risk toward the end of the 20th century.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The global burden of asthma, a chronic (long-term) condition caused by inflammation of the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs), has been rising steadily over the past few decades. It is estimated that, nowadays, 200–300 million adults and children worldwide are affected by asthma. Although asthma can develop at any age, it is often diagnosed in childhood—asthma is the most common chronic disease in children. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur or to irritants such as cigarette smoke, becoming narrower so that less air can enter the lungs. Exercise, cold air, and infections can also trigger asthma attacks, which can be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
Why Was This Study Done?
We cannot halt the ongoing rise in global asthma rates without understanding the causes of asthma. Some experts think obesity may be one cause of asthma. Obesity, like asthma, is increasingly common, and observational studies (investigations that ask whether individuals exposed to a suspected risk factor for a condition develop that condition more often than unexposed individuals) in children have reported that body mass index (BMI, an indicator of body fat calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared) is positively associated with asthma. Observational studies cannot prove that obesity causes asthma because of “confounding.” Overweight children with asthma may share another unknown characteristic (confounder) that actually causes both obesity and asthma. Moreover, children with asthma may be less active than unaffected children, so they become overweight (reverse causality). Here, the researchers use “Mendelian randomization” to assess whether BMI has a causal effect on asthma. In Mendelian randomization, causality is inferred from associations between genetic variants that mimic the effect of a modifiable risk factor and the outcome of interest. Because gene variants are inherited randomly, they are not prone to confounding and are free from reverse causation. So, if a higher BMI leads to asthma, genetic variants associated with increased BMI should be associated with an increased risk of asthma.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers investigated causal effects of BMI, fat mass, and lean mass on current asthma at age 7½ years in 4,835 children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC, a long-term health project that started in 1991). They calculated an allele score for each child based on 32 BMI-related genetic variants, and estimated associations between this score and BMI, fat mass and lean mass (both measured using a special type of X-ray scanner; in children BMI is not a good indicator of “fatness”), and asthma. They report that the allele score was strongly associated with BMI, fat mass, and lean mass, and with childhood asthma. The estimated causal relative risk (risk ratio) for the effect of BMI on asthma was 1.55 per kg/m2. That is, the relative risk of asthma increased by 55% for every extra unit of BMI. The estimated causal relative risks for the effects of fat mass and lean mass on asthma were 1.41 per 0.5 kg and 2.25 per kg, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that a higher BMI increases the risk of asthma in mid-childhood and that global increases in BMI toward the end of the 20th century may have contributed to the global increase in asthma that occurred at the same time. It is possible that the observed association between BMI and asthma reported in this study is underpinned by “genetic pleiotropy” (a potential limitation of all Mendelian randomization analyses). That is, some of the genetic variants included in the BMI allele score could conceivably also increase the risk of asthma. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that public health interventions designed to reduce obesity may also help to limit the global rise in asthma.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001669.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on asthma and on all aspects of overweight and obesity (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information on asthma and on obesity (in several languages)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about asthma, about asthma in children, and about obesity (including real stories)
The Global Asthma Report 2011 is available
The Global Initiative for Asthma released its updated Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention on World Asthma Day 2014
Information about the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children is available
MedlinePlus provides links to further information on obesity in children, on asthma, and on asthma in children (in English and Spanish
Wikipedia has a page on Mendelian randomization (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001669
PMCID: PMC4077660  PMID: 24983943
19.  Experiences of carers managing childhood eczema and their views on its treatment: a qualitative study 
The British Journal of General Practice  2012;62(597):e261-e267.
Background
Childhood eczema causes significant impact on quality of life for some families, yet non-concordance with treatment is common.
Aim
To explore parents' and carers' views of childhood eczema and its treatment.
Design and setting
Qualitative interview study in primary care in the south of England.
Method
Carers of children aged ≤5 years with a recorded diagnosis of eczema, who reported that eczema was still a problem, were invited to participate. Thirty-one parents were interviewed from 28 families.
Results
Many parents expressed frustration with both medical care and prescribed treatments. They felt their child's suffering was not ‘taken seriously’, and experienced messages about a ‘trial and error’ prescribing approach and assurance that their child would ‘grow out of it’ as a further ‘fobbing off’, or dismissal. Many carers were ambivalent about eczema treatments, mainly topical corticosteroids but also emollients. Dietary exclusions as a potential cure were of interest to most families, although they perceived healthcare professionals as uninterested in this. Families varied in the extent to which they felt able to manage eczema and the length of time taken to gain control. In some instances, this was linked to not understanding advice or receiving conflicting advice from different healthcare providers.
Conclusion
Poor concordance with treatments seems unsurprising in the presence of such dissonance between carers' and healthcare providers' agendas. Acknowledging the impact of the condition, greater attention to how key messages are delivered and addressing carers' treatment beliefs are likely to improve engagement with effective self-care.
doi:10.3399/bjgp12X636083
PMCID: PMC3310032  PMID: 22520913
atopic dermatitis; child; eczema; medication adherence; primary health care; qualitative research
20.  Association of parental eczema, hayfever, and asthma with atopic dermatitis in infancy: birth cohort study 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  2004;89(10):917-921.
Objective: To evaluate the association of parental history of atopic disease with childhood atopic dermatitis, and to examine the relative strength of associations with maternal and paternal disease.
Design: Mothers were recruited to the Avon longitudinal study of parents and children (ALSPAC) from the eighth week of pregnancy. Before parturition, both parents were asked, separately, to report their lifetime history of eczema, asthma, and hayfever. Parents reported symptoms of atopic dermatitis in their children at ages 6, 18, 30, and 42 months.
Results: Of 8530 children with complete information on rash at ages 6, 18, 30, and 42 months, 7969 had complete information on maternal atopic disease and 5658 on maternal and paternal atopic disease. There was a strong association between parental eczema and childhood atopic dermatitis: odds ratio 1.69 (95% confidence interval, 1.47 to 1.95) for maternal eczema only, 1.74 (1.44 to 2.09) for paternal eczema only, and 2.72 (2.09 to 3.53) for eczema in both parents. Associations with parental asthma or hayfever were attenuated after controlling for parental eczema. There was no evidence that associations with maternal atopy were stronger than with paternal.
Conclusions: Associations between parents' atopic disease and the risk of atopic dermatitis in offspring vary according to the type of atopic disease in the parents, but not according to parental sex. These results are at variance with previous studies reporting stronger associations with maternal than paternal atopy, and suggest that there is no "parent-of-origin" effect in atopic dermatitis. Parental eczema may be a better marker than parental asthma/hayfever in predisposing to childhood eczema.
doi:10.1136/adc.2003.034033
PMCID: PMC1719677  PMID: 15383434
21.  Risk factors for asthma and allergic diseases in school children across Lebanon 
Introduction:
Childhood asthma is one of important diseases of childhood. There is no known prevalence of asthma and allergic diseases in Lebanon. This study was conducted with a secondary objective of finding the odds of exposure to asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema potential risk factors in Lebanese children.
Material and methods:
It is a cross-sectional study on children in public and private schools. A sample of 22 schools participated, where standardized written core questionnaires were distributed. 5–12 year old students completed the questionnaires at home, while 13–14 year old students filled it in class.
Results:
5522 children were evaluated for asthma, allergic rhinitis and atopic eczema prevalence and their associated factors. These diseases seem to be similarly affected by parental respiratory problems, parental smoking, infancy gastroesophageal reflux, recurrent otitis, and previous pertussis. Humidity on the bedroom walls is associated with both asthma and allergic rhinitis, a spongy pillow with both allergic rhinitis and eczema, animal possession with asthma, and noncotton mattress with atopic eczema. The adjusted odds ratios for significant associations varied between 1.25 and 3 (0.0001 < p-value < 0.01).
Conclusion:
These factors are preventable, thus permitting a possible reduction of the prevalence of these diseases.
PMCID: PMC3048605  PMID: 21437138
asthma; eczema; rhinitis; allergic disease; risk factors
22.  Time trends, ethnicity and risk factors for eczema in New Zealand children: ISAAC Phase Three 
Asia Pacific Allergy  2013;3(3):161-178.
Background
Eczema is a common chronic disease which has significant morbidity and costs for children and their families. Phase One (1993) of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) found a high prevalence of symptoms of eczema in New Zealand.
Objective
In Phase Three (2001-3) we aimed to answer these three questions: Is the prevalence of eczema changing over time?; Are there ethnic differences in prevalence?; and What are the risk factors for eczema?
Methods
Five New Zealand centres participated in ISAAC Phases One and Three using the same methodology. Questionnaires about ethnicity, symptoms of eczema and environmental factors were completed by parents of 6-7 year olds (children) and self-completed by 13-14 year olds (adolescents). Prevalence and change per year were calculated by centre, ethnicity and gender. Prevalence differences between centres and associations with environmental factors were examined using logistic regression.
Results
There was little change in prevalence over time for the children, and a decrease in prevalence for the adolescents. Prevalence was higher among Māori and even higher among Pacific participants than among European children. Positive associations with current eczema symptoms were found for both age groups for truck traffic in the street of residence, and current paracetamol consumption, and for children only, antibiotics or paracetamol in the 1st year of life. Inverse associations were found with residence in New Zealand less than 5 years, consumption of milk, seafood, and eggs, and presence of a dog in the home.
Conclusion
Eczema remains a significant problem, particularly for young Māori and Pacific New Zealanders in whom less recognition of eczema and poorer access to effective, sustained eczema management may be contributing factors. Reverse causation may explain all the environmental findings apart from truck traffic which is increasing in New Zealand.
doi:10.5415/apallergy.2013.3.3.161
PMCID: PMC3736373  PMID: 23956963
Eczema; Children; Adolescents; Ethnicity; New Zealand; Environment
23.  Overview of Reviews The prevention of eczema in infants and children: an overview of Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews 
Background
Eczema is the most common inflammatory skin disease of childhood, characterized by an itchy red rash that usually involves the face and skin folds. There is currently no curative treatment for eczema, so the reduction of eczema incidence through disease prevention is a desirable goal. Potential interventions for preventing eczema include exclusive breastfeeding, hydrolysed protein formulas and soy formulas when bottle feeding, maternal antigen avoidance, omega oil supplementation, prebiotics and probiotics.
Objectives
This overview of reviews aims to present the current body of data from Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews to provide the most up-to-date evidence on the efficacy and safety of interventions to prevent eczema in infants and children at different risk levels for developing allergic disease.
Methods
Our pool of Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews came from the 2010 United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) Evidence Skin Disorders Annual Evidence Updates Mapping Exercise on Atopic Eczema. This group used a comprehensive search strategy last conducted in August 2010 to identify all systematic reviews on eczema prevention. We identified all reviews that met our pre-specified inclusion criteria, and data were extracted, analysed, compiled into tables and synthesized using quantitative and qualitative methods.
Main results
Seven systematic reviews containing 39 relevant trials with 11 897 participants were included in this overview. Overall, there was no clear evidence that any of the main interventions reviewed reduced eczema incidence. In subgroup analyses of infants at high risk of allergic disease, an observational study found that exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months compared with introduction of solids at three to six months decreased the incidence of eczema by 60% (risk ratio (RR): 0.40; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.21, 0.78), and a randomized controlled trial found that prebiotics compared with no prebiotics decreased incidence by 58% (RR: 0.42; 95% CI: 0.21, 0.84). However, each of these findings was based on the results of a single small trial, and no intervention reduced eczema incidence beyond the first two years of life. Although we pre-specified incidence of atopic eczema (i.e. eczema associated with immunoglobulin E (IgE) sensitization) as a primary outcome, data on whether participants diagnosed with eczema were truly atopic were largely lacking from systematic reviews. Similarly, data on atopy, measured using skin prick tests or specific IgE tests to allergens, were not reported in many reviews. No interventions were found to decrease atopy when reported. Adverse events data were generally lacking, but data from a trial of probiotics versus no probiotics showed significantly more spitting up in the first one (RR: 1.88; 95% CI: 1.03, 3.45) and two (RR: 1.69; 95% CI: 1.02, 2.80) months of life, but no overall increase in risk of gastrointestinal symptoms in the first year.
Authors’ conclusions
Although there is currently no clear evidence showing that any of the interventions examined in this overview prevent eczema in participants not selected for risk of allergic disease, there is some evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months and prebiotics might reduce eczema incidence in high-risk participants. However, these conclusions are based on limited evidence with methodological shortcomings. Future research on prevention of eczema is needed and should examine different types of hydrolysed formulas, prebiotics and probiotics, as well as enhancement of the skin barrier and other novel approaches in infants at different risk levels for developing allergic disease.
doi:10.1002/ebch.827
PMCID: PMC3399595  PMID: 22822349
eczema; overview; skin disease; systematic review
24.  Self-reported prevalence of childhood allergic diseases in three cities of China: a multicenter study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:551.
Background
Several studies conducted during the 1990s indicated that childhood allergic diseases were increasing worldwide, but more recent investigations in some Western countries have suggested that the trend is stabilizing or may even be reversing. However, few data are available on the current status of allergic disease prevalence in Chinese children. The aim of the present study was to investigate the prevalence rates of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema in children of three major cities of China, to determine the status of allergic diseases among Chinese children generally, and to evaluate the prevalence of allergic diseases in children of different ages.
Methods
We conducted a cross-sectional survey between October 2008 and May 2009 in three major cities of China (Beijing, Chongqing, and Guangzhou) to evaluate the prevalence rates of childhood allergic diseases including asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema, using a questionnaire of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) group. A total of 24,290 children aged 0-14 years were interviewed, using a multi-stage sampling method. To acquire data on children aged 3-14 years, we visited schools and kindergartens. To access children too young to attend school or kindergarten, we extended our survey to community health service centers. Each questionnaire was completed by a parent or guardian of a child after an informed consent form was signed.
Results
Of the 24,290 children in our study, 12,908 (53.14%) were males and 11,382 (46.86%) females; 10,372 (42.70%) were from Beijing, 9,846 (40.53%) from Chongqing, and 4,072 (16.77%) from Guangzhou. Our survey indicated that in Beijing, Chongqing, and Guangzhou, the prevalence rates of asthma were 3.15%, 7.45%, and 2.09%, respectively; the rates of allergic rhinitis were 14.46%, 20.42%, and 7.83%; and the rates of eczema were 20.64%, 10.02%, and 7.22%. The prevalence of allergic diseases varied with age. Asthma was relatively less common both in children aged under 2 years, and in those aged 9 years or more, in each of the three cities. The prevalence of allergic rhinitis was also lower in children younger than 2 years. The prevalence of eczema fell with age.
Conclusions
A marked increase in the prevalence rates of allergic diseases in China (compared with earlier data) was evident. Further studies exploring the precise causes of this increase are warranted.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-551
PMCID: PMC2944377  PMID: 20836838
25.  Maternal hookworm modifies risk factors for childhood eczema: results from a birth cohort in Uganda 
Pediatric Allergy and Immunology  2014;25(5):481-488.
Background
Worms may protect against allergy. Early-life worm exposure may be critical, but this has not been fully investigated.
Objectives
To investigate whether worms in pregnancy and in early childhood are associated with childhood eczema incidence.
Methods
The Entebbe Mother and Baby Study, an anthelminthic treatment trial, enrolled pregnant women between 2003 and 2005 in Uganda. Mothers were investigated for worms during pregnancy and children annually. Eczema was doctor-diagnosed from birth to age five years. A planned observational analysis was conducted within the trial cohort to investigate associations between worms and eczema.
Results
Data for 2345 live-born children were analysed. Hookworm was the most prevalent maternal worm (45%). Childhood worms were less prevalent. Eczema incidence was 4.68/100 person-years. Maternal hookworm was associated with reduced eczema incidence [adjusted hazard ratio (95% confidence interval), p-value: 0.71(0.51–0.99), 0.04] and modified effects of known risk factors for eczema: Dermatophagoides-specific IgE in children was positively associated with eczema incidence if the mother had no hookworm [2.72(1.11–6.63), 0.03], but not if the mother had hookworm [0.41(0.10–1.69), 0.22], interaction p-value = 0.03. Similar interactions were seen for maternal history of eczema {[2.87(1.31–6.27, 0.008) vs. [0.73(0.23–2.30), 0.60], interaction p-value = 0.05}, female gender {[1.82(1.22–2.73), 0.004 vs. [0.96(0.60–1.53), 0.87], interaction p-value = 0.04} and allergen-specific IgE. ChildhoodTrichuris trichiura and hookworm were inversely associated with eczema.
Conclusions
Maternal hookworm modifies effects of known risk factors for eczema. Mechanisms by which early-life worm exposures influence allergy need investigation. Worms or worm products, and intervention during pregnancy have potential for primary prevention of allergy.
doi:10.1111/pai.12251
PMCID: PMC4312885  PMID: 25171741
birth cohort; children; eczema; effect modification; hookworm; IgE; incidence; pregnancy; skin prick test; Uganda

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