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Skin disorder more common among children of separated parents


Hamburg : The chronic skin disorder neurodermatitis, which causes itchy patches usually on the back of the neck, outer part of the ankle and forearms, is more common among children whose parents separate, experts say.

The risk of neurodermatitis among children whose parents divorce is three times higher than other children the same age whose parents stay together, according to Germany’s society for allergology and clinical immunology here.

“Stress and psychological problems have a clear influence on the functions of the immune system and could worsen an existing neurodermititis,” said Torsten Schaefer, an allergist from Luebeck. Schaefer and his colleagues studied the effects of unemployment, illness and separation on 1,900 children.

Conversely, when a parent loses his or her job, it has no influence on a child getting neurodermatitis. A serious illness in the family appears to even lower the risk of neurodermatitis in a child.

“These results were surprising to us because, of course, an illness or even death of a loved-one causes a lot of stress,” said Schaefer. Possibly such events draw the family together so that a child receives more attention.

The organization said the condition is comparatively much more common in children whose parents are divorcing. The itchy patches first occur typically before a child’s second birthday. As is the case with most allergies, there is a greater risk if one or both parents also suffer from the disease. The risk of the disease is lower in babies who were nursed in the first six months of their lives.