Association between children's household living conditions and eczema in the Polokwane area, South Africa

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The aim of the study was to determine the 12-month prevalence of eczema symptoms (ES), the prevalence of ever having had eczema (EE), and potential risk factors among 6–7-year-old children within a 60 km radius of Polokwane city centre, Limpopo Province, South Africa. This study applied the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) Phase III protocol. It was conducted during August 2004 (winter) and February 2005 (summer). Among the 2437 participants, the 12-month prevalence of ES (17%) was much lower than the prevalence of EE (38%). The multivariate logistic regression model revealed that the likelihood of having ES was significantly increased by 43% in rural areas, and by 54% when exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) at home. The model also revealed that the likelihood of EE significantly increased with ETS exposure at home (37%), and by the use of coal, paraffin, gas and/or electricity for cooking (28%). Living in a formal house significantly decreased the likelihood of EE by 23%. Eczema appears to be a substantial public health problem in the Polokwane area. It is hoped that future studies will scrutinize these results in more detail, to inform and influence policy decisions, and form a basis for a health-promotion intervention in the community.

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