Background: There is strong evidence that the incidence and prevalence of atopic diseases is increasing. However, estimates of the prevalence of atopic dermatitis (AD) have varied greatly in the U.K. and most parts of the developed world.
Objectives: The aim of the study was to estimate the prevalence and incidence of AD between the ages of 0 and 42 months in children born in the 1990s in a defined population in the U.K.
Design: We used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood (ALSPAC), a large population-based study in the U.K. that enrolled all pregnant mothers who were resident in Avon and had their delivery date falling between 1 April 1991 and 31 December 1992. Since then ALSPAC has collected a wide range of data from the newborns and their parents. Data reported here were collected at 6, 18, 30 and 42 months using parental reports in a postal questionnaire. Of the 14 009 children originally enrolled 8530 provided information on AD in each of the four follow-up questionnaires. We defined AD as a report of rash in at least two of the four questionnaires. Incidence risk was defined as the percentage of new cases of AD between follow-up questionnaires, out of the total number of children whose parents had not reported that they had AD by the time of the previous follow-up.
Results: Period prevalence of 21.0%, 25.6%, 23.2% and 19.9% were observed at ages 0-6, 6-18, 18-30 and 30-42 months, respectively. The corresponding incidence risks were 21.0%, 11.2% and 3.8%, at 0-6, 6-18 and 18-30 months, respectively. There were no gender differences in either the incidence or prevalence of the disease.
Conclusions: Results from this large, prospective study are consistent with recent reports of increased incidence and prevalence of AD. Health planners can use our estimates of incidence and prevalence to project the number of children likely to suffer from AD during infancy and early childhood, and thus to determine the human and financial resources required.