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Open Access Research article

Prevalence of childhood eczema and food sensitization in the First Nations reserve of Natuashish, Labrador, Canada

Robert GP Forsey

Author Affiliations

Discipline of Family Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Labrador-Grenfell Health, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

BMC Pediatrics 2014, 14:76  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-76

Published: 20 March 2014

Abstract

Background

The Mushua Innu of Natuashish, Labrador, Canada seem to have a high rate of childhood eczema. Anecdotally this problem seems to be more common now than 20 years ago. There has been speculation that this could be related to food sensitization that may have arisen coincident with a move away from a traditional Innu diet. We undertook to assess the prevalence and severity of pediatric eczema in Natuashish (population 792), and investigate the level of sensitization to common food antigens.

Methods

Over a three-month period we performed a population survey of all children in the community from the ages of 2–12 inclusive. The one-year prevalence of eczema was assessed using the United Kingdom Working Party’s diagnostic criteria, and graded on the Nottingham Severity Scale. All children with eczema and twice as many age/sex matched controls were offered complete blood counts, total IgE, and food specific IgE levels for egg white, cow’s milk protein and wheat.

Results

One hundred and eighty two (95% of the eligible children) were assessed. Of the 182 children examined eczema was diagnosed in 30 (16.5%) - 22 females and 8 males. The majority of children with eczema (20/30) were classified as being in the moderate and severe category. Of the 22 with eczema and 40 controls who consented to venipuncture all but 3 had IgE levels above the lab's reference range. Food specific antibody assays showed that 32, 23, and 5 percent of children with eczema were sensitized to egg, milk, and wheat respectively. None of the controls were sensitized.

Conclusions

The children of Natuashish, Labrador have a high rate of eczema, much of it graded as moderate or severe. IgE levels were markedly elevated in children with and without eczema, with average values at least ten-fold higher than other populations. There is no evidence of an unusual amount of sensitization to egg, milk or wheat.