Atopic eczema and the home environment

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Journal article

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British Journal of Dermatology

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Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Atopic eczema, Home environment, Odds ratio, Population attributable risk percentage


Background: There is strong evidence to suggest that the prevalence of atopic eczema is increasing in developed countries. Environmental factors have been implicated in the disease.

Objectives: This descriptive case-control study sheds light on the possible association between atopic eczema in school children and various home environmental factors, and generates hypotheses for further studies.

Methods: The study uses data on reported atopic eczema symptoms collected via a cross-sectional parental postal survey (n = 1350) in Nottingham, U.K. Estimates of the risk of reported eczema associated with various home environmental factors were calculated by means of odds ratios (OR), along with population attributable risk percentages.

Results: The study showed statistically significant associations between atopic eczema symptoms and dampness in the home [OR 1.40; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.00-1.97], the use of a radiator to heat the child's bedroom (OR 1.50; 95% CI 1.05-2.16) and the use of synthetic pillows (OR 1.51; 95% CI 1.01-2.28). Frequent vacuuming in the home was associated with a decreased prevalence of atopic eczema (OR 0.74; 95% CI 0.58-0.94). The associations with dampness in the home, synthetic pillows and frequency of vacuuming were not altered significantly after adjustment for age, sex and socio-economic status. Population attributable risk percentages for the use of a radiator and synthetic pillows indicate that although the relative risk estimates for these factors may be small, the population impact of these factors is considerable (26% and 28%, respectively), owing to the high prevalence of exposure to these factors among this group of school children.

Conclusions: Further research is needed to confirm these associations and additional research is needed to see whether they might be causative. Practical public health advice about the importance of controlling the home environment may then be targeted at families with atopic eczema.



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Copyright © 2001 British Association of Dermatologists

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Recommended Citation

Mcnally, N. J., Williams, H. C., & Phillips, D. R. (2001). Atopic eczema and the home environment. British Journal of Dermatology, 145(5), 730-736. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2001.04474.x