METHODS: We investigated 186 children followed up regularly for 4 years in a birth cohort study. Early-onset eczema was defined to occur symptoms before age of 2. Specific IgE antibodies against food (egg white, milk, and wheat) and inhalant allergens (mite) were measured at 6 months as well as 1, 1.5, 2, 3 and 4 years of age. The associations between onsets of eczema and atopic indices were assessed.
RESULTS: A significantly higher prevalence of sensitization to food, especially milk was found in children with early-onset eczema compared to children without eczema at age 1, 1.5, 2, 3 and 4. A significantly higher number of eosinophils was found in children with early or late-onset eczema compared to children without eczema at age of 1.5 years. Both early and late-onset eczema were not only significantly associated with higher prevalence of allergic rhinitis at 2, 3, and 4 years of age, but also asthma at age 2. Furthermore, early-onset eczema appeared to show a significantly increased risk of allergic rhinitis [odds ratio (OR), 3.71; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.37–10.02; P = 0.010] and asthma (OR, 3.80; 95% CI, 1.12–12.85; P = 0.032) at an age of 4 years.
CONCLUSIONS: Early-onset eczema appears not only to be associated with an increase in the prevalence of milk sensitization but also the risk of rhinitis and asthma in early childhood.