Although the U.K. modification of Hanifin and Rajka's diagnostic criteria for atopic dermatitis (AD) for use in epidemiological studies has demonstrated good validity and repeatability when previously tested in a U.K. community setting, little is known about its performance in other countries where different cultural, educational and linguistic factors could impair validity. We used a questionnaire to test the validity of the U.K. criteria as a point prevalence measure of AD in 1114 Romanian schoolchildren aged 6–12 years against the clinical diagnosis of a dermatologist with an interest in AD, who was unaware of the questionnaire content and responses. The sensitivity and specificity of the U.K. criteria for AD in this setting was 74% and 99%, respectively, an improvement rather than a deterioration in validity when compared with the previous U.K. study. Test–retest repeatability for all of the questions pertaining to the U.K. criteria using the chance-corrected kappa statistic was high, with values of 0.72 and over. The positive predictive value of the criteria was lower than in the U.K. study (63% compared with 80%, respectively) due to the very low prevalence of AD in this study (2.4%). The validity of a parental report of ‘eczema’ was poor, with a sensitivity of 22%, specificity of 97% and positive predictive value of 18%. This study suggests that the U.K. criteria perform well in settings outside the U.K., although care has to be taken when using the criteria to ascertain cases in settings where the prevalence of AD is very low.