Is eczema alleviated by installing a water-softener in the house?

Is eczema alleviated by installing a water-softener in the house?

Scientists from the University of Portsmouth, England, are carrying out a study to find out whether installing a water-softener in the home might improve the symptoms of children with eczema. The researchers are looking for children aged 6 months to 16 years who have moderate to severe eczema to participate in a clinical trial. As long as the volunteers are willing to travel to Portsmouth they may be from any part of the country (UK).

Reports clearly indicate that areas such as Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, where the water is 'hard', have a higher incidence of eczema. To date, nobody is really sure why.

The researchers want to find out whether fitting a device to soften all the water in the house, apart from a single tap in the kitchen for drinking, might improve the children's eczema.

The department of health informs that up to one in every five schoolchildren in the UK are affected by eczema. Symptoms commonly include dry, reddened skin that itches or burns and can lead to oozing lesions. Most current treatments manage only to suppress the condition, rather than cure it, and may have undesirable side-effects.

The devices will be fitted in the children's home free-of-charge for the duration of the trial. Families who want to subsequently keep them may do so at a reduced cost.

Anne-Marie Crawford-Flanagan from Gosport, who has just finished the trial with her 15 month old son Dylan who suffered from such severe eczema he needed to be wet wrapped from head to toe in bandages, said "The eczema meant Dylan had bleeding sores and wouldn't sleep for more than an hour without waking up to scratch. We had about a dozen different creams on prescription and I was at my wit's end. Less than two weeks after the softener was installed there was a dramatic improvement. Now there's barely a mark on him. He's a completely different baby."

The Department of Health, which is funding this study, says if the trial is successful it could mean an improvement to the lives of millions of children, as well as adults.

Study leader, Professor Tara Dean, Director of Research at the School of Health Sciences and Social Work, said: "Eczema is reported to be less common in areas of soft water and there is anecdotal evidence which suggests that sufferers who already have a water softener installed see a reduction in their symptoms. Carrying out a proper clinical trial will help prove if this is the case. If water softeners are found to improve the symptoms of eczema it will be a breakthrough for both patients and doctors. For some it may be as simple as reducing their dependency on pharmacological treatments such as steroids and creams. Softening the water also reduces the amount of detergent needed for washing clothes which can be a major irritant for eczema sufferers."

Click here to view the Softened Water Eczema Trial website.

The homes of volunteers will be checked to see whether they are suitable for the installation of the water softening device. Participants will be examined at a nearby hospital by a specially trained nurse who will score the severity of their eczema and map the pattern of it. The nurses will not know which children are using the water softener.

Each child or parent will complete a daily diary to record their symptoms. Each volunteer will also be issued with a small computerized wristband to monitor levels of night-scratching while sleeping. Eczema patients tend to scratch much more during their sleep, compared to people who do not have eczema.

Professor Dean, who is also the Deputy Director of the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre on the Isle of Wight, said "We can monitor the amount they scratch to see if it reduces during the period their water is softened."

Eczema can affect any part of the body. However, in general it affects the face, neck, insides of the elbows, knees and ankles. In babies eczema usually affects the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, scalp and neck.

The 16-week study will include three follow-up examinations to find out whether there are any symptom and quality-of-life improvements. All volunteers will continue their normal eczema treatments during the trial.

The study is funded by the Department of Health (NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme) and is being coordinated by The Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology at the University of Nottingham under the direction of Professor Hywel Williams and Dr Kim Thomas. Other study centres are open in Boston, Lincoln, Nottingham, Leicester, Cambridge and London.

If you would like further information about taking part in the trial, please contact: The Softened Water Eczema Trial team at the David Hide Asthma & Allergy Research Centre, Telephone (01983) 534178. For more information see

The researchers stress that all data collected during the trial will be kept strictly confidential.

Water Softener May Help Eczema Sufferers (Video Medical And Professional 2020).

Section Issues On Medicine: Disease