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Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic, relapsing dermatosis that features dry skin (xerosis), pruritus, and a personal or family history of eczema, allergic rhinitis or allergies, or asthma. Children who have one component of the atopic triad (AD, asthma, allergic rhinitis) are three times as likely to develop a second component. There is no sex predilection, and the onset frequently is in infancy. Although many affected children outgrow the condition by age 5 years, AD may persist into adolescence and adulthood. A smaller percentage of patients experience the onset of AD as older children or in adulthood.

The incidence and prevalence of AD have increased in the United States and worldwide, particularly in developed nations. Fewer than 10% of children were affected in the 1970s, but recent epidemiologic studies estimate that 15% to 20% of children are diagnosed with AD. The...

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