Aboriginal children face skin disease risk
A new Telethon Institute study shows rural Aboriginal children in the Murchison and Mid West regions have skin diseases at a markedly higher rate than non-Aboriginal children.
WA Centre for Rural Health director Dr Sandra Thompson, who was not involved in the study, said skin diseases in children could lead to worse health consequences.
“They can lead to rheumatic fever, for example, which is one of the causes of heart disease,” she said. “And you can even get renal failure because you get these infections, like post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.”
Dr Thompson said overcrowded housing was the main cause of the skin diseases. “Poor housing brings kids into contact with lots of other people who have various conditions, as does contact with pets,” she said.
“Part of sharing houses also means people may not have very good washing and showering facilities.”
Dr Thompson said scabies mite infestations caused severe itching.
“Scratching the itch breaks the skin and makes it more susceptible to infection, then the infected skin contaminates the environment,” she said.
Dr Thompson said malnutrition led to children failing to thrive, which also made them more susceptible to various infections.
According to the study, more than 31 in 1000 Aboriginal children living in rural parts of the Murchison and Mid West had skin conditions such as scabies and school sores.
“In Aboriginal children, abscess was the most common principal diagnosis, followed by cellulitis, scabies, impetigo and pyoderma, fungal infection and head lice,” Dr Thompson said.
She said Aboriginal children in the remote Kimberley, Pilbara and Goldfields had even higher skin infection rates, with the highest disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children being in infants aged under one.
“The good news is that the rates have been declining overall by about 6 per cent per year over the last few years,” Dr Thompson said.