Do Children with Eczema or Atopic Conditions Have More Severe Autism?

October 17, 2022

Study Shows Atopic Children Were 2.3 Times More Likely to Display Severe ASD Symptoms

Previous research has shown that children with autism are more likely to have eczema and atopic diseases—prevalence estimates among children with autism range from 7% to 64.2%. A new study has examined whether children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and atopic conditions, especially eczema, display increased autism-related symptom severity. The current study recruited 140 children with autism to investigate this premise. In total, 45 atopic and 93 non-atopic children were assessed using the ADOS-2 to score total, social, and non-social autism-related symptoms. Results showed that children with ASD and atopic disease experienced more severe symptoms overall and on the ADOS social domain than children with ASD without atopic conditions. Specifically, compared to non-atopic children, atopic children were 2.3 times more likely to experience overall symptoms classified with the ADOS-2 highest-level severity bracket and 2.9 times more likely to exhibit social difficulties. Additionally, these findings suggest that ASD symptom severity may differ as a function of atopic disease type, with children with eczema displaying a greater degree of overall impairment compared to age- and sex-matched non-atopic participants and those reporting other prevalent atopic conditions (asthma/allergies). The authors believe their findings support further investigations of a possible early life link between cortical and epidermal development, supported by a possible skin-brain-immune connection. They also suggest that their research may lead to sub-type identification of children with different neurodevelopmental contributing factors. This could lead to opportunities for novel therapies to improve outcomes. 

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