South African Medical Journal

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Respiratory comorbidity in South African children with atopic dermatitis

CL Gray, ME Levin, G du Toit


Background. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is an early and important step in the propagation of the allergic march, enhancing food and respiratory allergies via epicutaneous sensitisation to allergens. Objectives. To determine the prevalence and patterns of aeroallergen sensitisation, asthma and allergic rhinitis in South African (SA) children with AD. Methods. This was a prospective, observational study in a paediatric university hospital in Cape Town, SA. Children with moderate to severe AD, aged 6 months - 10 years, were recruited randomly and investigated for food sensitisation and allergy. They were assessed for sensitisation to aeroallergens by the immuno solid-phase allergen chip test. House-dust mite DerP and DerF, dust mite Eur m, Timothy grass, Bermuda grass, tree pollen, mould (Alternaria), cat and dog sensitisation patterns were analysed. Symptoms of asthma and allergic rhinitis were elicited using a questionnaire modified from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood study questions. Results. One hundred participants (59 black Africans and 41 of mixed ethnicity) were enrolled (median age 42 months). Of the participants, 39% had symptoms of asthma and 53% symptoms of allergic rhinitis; 89% tested positive to at least one aeroallergen, most commonly house-dust mite DerP or DerF (81%), dust mite Eur m (51%), Timothy grass (36%) and cat (35%). Asthma, allergic rhinitis and aeroallergen sensitisation all increased with increasing age, while food allergy decreased with age. Food allergy was not an independent risk factor for respiratory allergies. Children were sensitised to indoor allergens (house-dust mite, pets) from an early age, while pollen allergies increased with age. Conclusions. In this cohort of SA children with moderate to severe AD, comorbidity with respiratory allergies was high. The prevalence of respiratory allergies increased with age while food allergy decreased with age, in keeping with the pattern of the allergic march. Seasonal allergies increased with age, while house-dust mite and pet allergy peaked in younger children, in keeping with early exposure via a defective skin barrier. Early and effective restoration of the skin barrier in AD may be a target for reducing aeroallergen-related diseases.

S Afr Med J 2017;107(10):904-909.
AJOL African Journals Online