Covid increases prevalence of eczema among schoolchildren: HKU

17-Jan-2022 Intellasia | Thestandard | 7:32 AM Print This Post

Increased consumption of processed and high calorie food as well as Covid-19-related pressure and lack of outdoor activities could be why incidence of eczema has increased among schoolchildren, a University of Hong Kong study has found.

A population-based International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood conducted in 2021 surveyed over 2,200 schoolchildren and 1,800 parents online on the prevalence of allergic diseases and their mental health impact in Hong Kong.

The study, conducted by researchers from HKU’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration and the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine of the United Christian Hospital, looked into the prevalence of eczema, asthma, rhinitis and allergic rhinitis.

Eczema, asthma, and rhinitis are three most common pediatric allergic diseases, with symptoms such as scratching, wheezing and sneezing.

Among the 1,165 parent-child dyads from primary one and two students and parents surveyed, the incidence rate of rhinitis was the most severe at 59.4 percent, up 17 percentage points from a similar study in 2004.

It is followed by allergic rhinitis at 46.1 percent and eczema at 41.6 percent, both showing up more than 10 percentage points over 2004. Only asthma showed a decrease among primary children, down from 7.9 percent in 2004 to 5.5 percent.

“Male respondents were significantly more likely to experience wheezing in the past year, rhinitis and allergic rhinitis than female respondents,” the team said.

For secondary students, rhinitis is the most common allergy with a prevalence rate of 62 percent, based on data from 1,083 secondary two and three students and 636 parents. This also marked a 10 percentage point increase compared to 1997′s study on secondary schoolchildren.

The prevalence rate for eczema also increased from 15 percent to 26.5 percent, but the prevalence of asthma dropped from 11 percent to 6.1 percent. The latest prevalence for allergic rhinitis is 47.4 percent.

“In the current study, 10.4 percent of Form Two and Three students have experienced chronic rash eczema, 5 percent have experienced wheezing asthma and 55 percent have experienced rhinitis,” researchers said, adding that asthma is more frequently diagnosed among male than female youngsters.

The team said a combination of environmental factors, such as the increased uptake of processed and high calorie foods as well as rising prevalence of obesity and climate change could contribute to the increasing prevalence of eczema.

The team added that Covid-19 related factors, such Covid-19 related stress and changes in outdoor physical activities could also be accountable. For changes in prevalence of rhinitis and asthma, researchers suggested that diagnostic shifts, changes in respiratory risk factors and behavior due to Covid could be possible explanations.

“Allergic diseases are not only detrimental to the health and psychosocial functioning of schoolchildren, but it also impacts parents’ quality of life,” the team said, as parents of children with more severe allergic rhinitis were more likely to feel stressed, anxious, depressed and incompetent.

Children with more severe eczema also reported diminished levels of physical, emotional, social and psychosocial functioning.


Category: Hong Kong

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