Diagnosing atopic dermatitis in infancy: Questionnaire reports vs criteria-based assessment
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BACKGROUND: Persisting atopic dermatitis (AD) is known to be associated with more serious allergic diseases at later ages; however, making an accurate diagnosis during infancy is challenging. We assessed the diagnostic performance of questionnaire-based AD measures with criteria-based in-person clinical assessments at age 1 year and evaluated the ability of these diagnostic methods to predict asthma, allergic rhinitis and food allergies at age 5 years. METHODS: Data relate to 3014 children participating in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study who were directly observed in a clinical assessment by an experienced healthcare professional using the UK Working Party criteria. The majority (2221; 73.7%) of these children also provided multiple other methods of AD ascertainment: a parent reporting a characteristic rash on a questionnaire, a parent reporting the diagnosis provided by an external physician and a combination of these two reports. RESULTS: Relative to the direct clinical assessment, the area under the Receiver Operating Characteristic curve for a parental report of a characteristic rash, reported physician diagnosis and a combination of both were, respectively, 0.60, 0.69 and 0.70. The strongest predictor of asthma at 5 years was AD determined by criteria-based in-person clinical assessment followed by the combination of parental and physician report. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that questionnaire data cannot accurately substitute for assessment by experienced healthcare professionals using validated criteria for diagnosis of atopic dermatitis. Combining the parental report with diagnosis by a family physician might sometimes be appropriate (eg to avoid costs of a clinical assessment).
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