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Atopic dermatitis in school-aged children may significantly increase the risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, as shown in a recent study. Identifying the associated risk factors could aid clinicians in implementing timely interventions.

  • A significant percentage (11.25%) of school-aged children with atopic dermatitis also displayed symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Sleep disorders and elevated levels of specific cytokines (IL-6, IL-4, and NGF) were identified as independent risk factors.
  • Clinicians are advised to monitor these indicators closely for early intervention.

A study published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found a noteworthy correlation between atopic dermatitis (AD), a common childhood inflammatory skin disease, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If not identified and addressed in its early stages, children with this comorbidity may experience severe adverse effects on their psychological well-being, daily functioning, and overall development.

Atopic Dermatitis and ADHD: An Intricate Relationship

The relationship between AD and ADHD is multifaceted. AD impacts many aspects of a child’s life, including their growth as well as psychological and behavioral well-being. ADHD is a well-documented neurobehavioral disorder marked by symptoms like inattention and hyperactivity, many of which overlap with those of AD. Research suggests that children with AD are more likely to display ADHD symptoms. This connection is believed to stem from the emotional challenges posed by AD, which can subsequently affect the child’s neurophysiological processes.

Significant Predictive Indicators

Several factors emerged as key indicators in the study:

  • Sleep Disorders: Night-time itching is a common complaint among children with AD, leading to various sleep disruptions, which can then manifest as daytime symptoms consistent with those of ADHD, including inattention, memory decline, and emotional volatility.
  • IL-6 and IL-4: These cytokines, responsible for certain immune responses and neurotransmitter functions, are believed to play a role in ADHD’s pathogenesis and its link to AD.
  • Nerve Growth Factor (NGF): NGF was identified as another crucial factor, potentially signaling a higher risk of ADHD in children suffering from AD by enhancing inflammatory responses.
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Key Findings of the Study

From a sample of 80 children diagnosed with AD, 9 were also found to have ADHD. Sleep disruptions, as well as elevated levels of IL-6, IL-4, and NGF, stood out as independent risk factors that increased the likelihood of these children developing ADHD.

Implications for Clinicians

The results underscore the importance of early intervention and monitoring. Healthcare professionals should prioritize:

  • Regular assessments of children with AD for potential ADHD symptoms
  • Tracking the levels of serum IL-6, IL-4, and NGF, alongside sleep behavior evaluations
  • Employing early interventions for those showing signs of ADHD, mitigating the potential adverse effects on their academic, social, and emotional well-being

By recognizing the risk factors—particularly sleep disorders and elevated cytokine levels—clinicians may better serve their pediatric patients, which may help promote early interventions and potentially improve long-term outcomes.


Yu, H., & Zhang, W. (2023). Prevalence and Related Factors of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in School-age Children With Atopic Dermatitis. Alternative Therapies In Health And Medicine, Online ahead of print.