Attending day care under the age of two increases risk of eczema

A number of studies have found that eczema (a collective term for different skin conditions characterized by a scaly, itchy, reddish rash and affecting 10–20% of infants and children) is more common among East German than West German children. East German children are also more likely to attend early day care.

Dr Claudia Cramer of the IUF-Institut fur Umweltmedizinische Forschung in Dusseldorf and her colleagues, therefore, followed 3,097 children from birth to age 6. Thirteen percent of the children from eastern Germany had been diagnosed with eczema by age 4, compared to 8% of the children from western Germany. Fifty-five percent of the children from East Germany attended day care in their first two years of life, compared to 6% of the West German children.

Early day care attendance was the only factor independently associated with eczema risk. Children in early day care were 56% more likely to have the skin condition than children who didn't attend day care before the age of two. The effect seemed to weaken as children got older.

The study did not look at why early day care should increase eczema risk, but the researchers suggest that in day care children may be exposed to more allergens and microorganisms than at home. Children in day care could also be more stressed, which could promote the development of eczema.

Allergy, published online August 17, 2010.

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