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Climate Changes Affect Atopic Eczema

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Atopic eczema, to quote the authors of this study, "is a chronic inflammatory skin disease characterized by itching, lesions and lichenification," especially at "the flexure sites of the major joints of the upper and lower extremities." The pain and itching associated with the disease, as they describe it, "may cause depressive symptoms, social isolation and reduced self-perception," negatively influencing the quality of life in both children and their caretakers. They further report that epidemiological studies suggest climate influences the disease's prevalence, noting that "atopic eczema has been reported worldwide to be positively associated with latitude and negatively with temperature (Weiland et al., 2004)."

What was done
Thirty children, 4 to 13 years of age with severe atopic eczema, were transported from their homes in Norway to the Canary Islands, where they stayed for a period of four weeks before returning, while 26 similarly-infected children of the same age group stayed at home in Norway the entire time.

All were evaluated for various disease characteristics (1) at the start of the study, (2) at the conclusion of the group-of-30's four-week period of stay in the Canary Islands, and (3) three months after the 30 children left the islands to return home to Norway. The specific disease parameters employed in the evaluation were the Scoring of Atopic Dermatitis, the Children's Dermatology Life Quality Index, skin colonization by Staphylococcus aureus, and pharmacological skin treatment.

What was learned
Noting that temperatures during the children's stay in the Canary Islands were much higher than they were back in Norway, Byremo et al. report that their time in the warmer climate significantly reduced the severity of atopic eczema, and that the youths improved in (1) severity of eczema, (2) quality of life, and (3) bacterial skin culture, which was reflected in (4) a reduction in the use of topical steroids, antihistamines and topical antibiotics. These positive changes were observed at the conclusion of the 4-week stay in the Canary Islands, as well as back home in Norway three months later. In fact, the researchers state that the four weeks spent in the Canary Islands "led to a lasting improvement for the children," while "the control group did not show similar improvement."

What it means
Although greater exposure to sunlight and the effect of regularly bathing in seawater, such as the children did at the Canary Islands, likely played positive roles in reducing the severity of their atopic eczema, the results of this study once again proved harmonious with the worldwide negative correlation that prevails between eczema and temperature, suggesting that global warming may well prove beneficial to people unfortunate enough to suffer from it.

Reference: Byremo, G., Rod, G. and Carlsen, K.H. 2006. Effect of climatic change in children with atopic eczema. Allergy 61: 1403-1410.


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