With atopic dermatitis placing such a significant burden on patients, frequently at an early age, it is unsurprising that family and carers also experience substantial burden. In fact, the social, personal and emotional impact of paediatric chronic atopic dermatitis on families was found to be greater than that of diabetes (Su et al., 1997).
Atopic dermatitis in children can affect their family’s/carer’s in several ways:
Caring for a child with atopic dermatitis can be time consuming. The day-to-day management of the condition can take a substantial amount of time, from around 1 hour (Holm & Jemec, 2004) to approximately 2–3 hours per day (Su et al., 1997), although conflicting results have been observed in other studies (Jemec et al., 2006). In addition, parents may also need to take time off work to look after their child (Lewis-Jones, 2006). Having a child with atopic dermatitis can also increase the amount of housework and preparation required, such as increased laundry, cleaning and food preparation with 90% of families in one study reporting problems with practical care. The impact of this can also lead to lifestyle limitations for the family and perhaps it is not surprising that the majority of parents report feelings of frustration, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt and the inability to cope (Lawson et al., 1998; Chamlin et al., 2004).
Having a child with atopic dermatitis also significantly impacts the sleep of family members. In a study of 270 patients and their parents, 61% of parents said their sleep was disturbed because of their child’s atopic dermatitis (Chamlin et al., 2005). Meanwhile, a small study in the UK compared the sleep habits of 26 families with a child with atopic dermatitis and 29 families with a child with asthma. Interestingly, while the families of children with asthma spent no time at night caring for their child, the mothers of children with atopic dermatitis spent an average of 78 minutes per night attending to them while the fathers spent an average of 90 minutes (Moore et al., 2006).