Background: Atopic Dermatitis (AD), hayfever and asthma are commonly summarized as atopic diseases. The spatial distribution of AD differs from that of asthma and hayfever, suggesting that AD might follow a different risk pattern than these diseases. AD can be differentiated into an allergic extrinsic form (EAD) and a non-allergic intrinsic form (IAD). Only EAD might follow the distribution and risk pattern that have been ascribed to asthma and hayfever.
Objective: To investigate the distribution and risk factor profile of AD and EAD focusing on environmental factors relating to the hygiene hypothesis.
Methods: Population-based cross-sectional study on 12,601 children aged 5-7 and 9-11 years from Dresden (Eastern Germany) and Munich (Western Germany). Information was obtained by International Study of Asthma and Allergic Childhood questionnaires, dermatological examinations and skin prick testing. AD-diagnosis ever, current AD-symptoms and visible eczema were investigated with their respective extrinsic forms.
Results: Maternal and paternal history of AD were equally strong determinants of the child's AD status. Factors related to the hygiene hypothesis like day-care attendance and number of older siblings were not associated with a decreased risk of AD. The proportion of EAD within AD was higher in Eastern than in Western Germany. The determinants of the diseases appeared to be similar for both EAD and IAD.
Conclusions: There was no evidence of the hygiene hypothesis holding true for AD or EAD. AD might be a separate entity than respiratory atopic diseases. Little is known about the risk factors of AD and factors different from those of respiratory allergic diseases should be considered in future research.