Black and Hispanic children in the United States have much higher rates of the skin condition eczema than white children, experts say.
These disparities in eczema -- also called atopic dermatitis (AD) -- will be presented at a virtual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), Friday through Sunday.
"Not only do Black children in the U.S. have significantly higher incidence of AD and more nights of disturbed sleep compared to white children, their AD also tends to last longer into childhood," said meeting presenter Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, a dermatologist and associate professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.
Black children and adults with eczema are also more likely to have an urgent care or emergency room visit for the condition and to be hospitalized for it, he added in a meeting news release.
"Allergists and other health care specialists who treat AD recognize the need to approach the issue of health disparities with increased education, innovation and evidence-based solutions," Silverberg said.
Eczema looks different on black and brown skin from the way it does on white skin, according to allergist and ACAAI president-elect Dr. Luz Fonacier, from NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.
"Unfortunately, the textbooks from which medical students learn often don't contain images of AD in Black and Hispanic patients, and that's something we are looking to change," she said in the release.
When eczema goes undiagnosed due to lack of education on the part of the medical community, getting positive treatment outcomes becomes even more difficult, the presenters noted.
Silverberg outlined potential ways to help patients from minority groups get the eczema treatment they need.
They include increasing diversity of doctors and staff; increasing community engagement to build trust; offering evening and weekend office hours to increase patient access, and being flexible about appointments to allow for urgent visits.
Other suggestions include: 24-hour telephone coverage for patients; telehealth visits, and educating patients about their disease and treatment.
"We need to pay special attention to minorities when it comes to treating skin allergies because how these conditions appear on a person's skin varies, and the treatment will also vary. We need to consider all patients' individual needs," Silverberg said.
For more on eczema, see the American Academy of Family Physicians.
SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, news release, Nov. 13, 2020