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A skin disease is harming the health of children — and causing them to fall behind in their education.
Latino and black children are more likely than white children to miss school due to eczema, according to researchers are the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
“Most people don’t realize the serious impact eczema can have on a person’s life, and our research shows minorities may be disproportionately affected,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Junko Takeshita, assistant professor of dermatology and epidemiology, according to Penn Medicine News.
What is Eczema?
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis (AD), is a common inflammatory disease that causes red and itchy skin. It affects 30 million Americans, including up to 20% of all children, according to the CDC.
Latinos are among those groups most likely to have the disease due to environmental, genetic, and other factors.
“Typically, those with a family history of atopic dermatitis or other atopic diseases (asthma, hay fever) are more likely to have the condition,” writes the National Eczema Association. “This is because certain genetic mutations that affect the skin barrier cells and skin immune cells are passed from generation to generation. These mutations also tend to occur more often in some ethnic groups compared to others, which may help explain differences in the frequency and severity of eczema between whites, African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and others.”
Eczema is also associated with adverse psychological effects, including an increased anxiety and depression.
Latino kids are already far more likely than their peers to have mental health issues. These issues usually go unaddressed and untreated, according to a Salud America! research review.
“The effects of eczema are more than skin-deep, and studies have shown that the mental health and social impact of this condition can be significant – sometimes just as much or more than the physical – and may lead to a higher number of school days missed,” said the study’s lead author Joy Wan, a post-doctoral fellow and instructor of dermatology.
New Research Findings
Researchers specifically examined eczema-related school absenteeism by race and ethnicity.
Analyzing data from 8,015 patients ages 2-17 enrolled in the Pediatric Eczema Elective Registry (PEER), the study found that:
- 241 patients missed at least six days of school over six-months, which makes them chronically absentee, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
- Hispanic children are 3.4 times more likely to miss school due to eczema than their white peers after necessary adjustments.
- Black children were 1.5 times more likely.
While the PEER data is self-reported, researchers say that it may not represent the general population with eczema.
“They point this growing body of work that uncovers disproportions related to eczema, including their recent study showing black and Latino children are more likely to go to an emergency room, and black children are less likely to see a dermatologist for their eczema than white children,” Penn Medicine News writes.
What Should Be Done?
More research is needed.
Chronic absenteeism makes kids at-risk for dropping out of school, making this an important line of study.
“Understanding the factors that drive racial and ethnic differences in AD-related absences can ensure that efforts to reduce absenteeism are directed toward the most vulnerable children,” according to the research.