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One of the most widely used treatments for childhood eczema is not beneficial

Pouring emollient additives into a bath does not add any benefit over the standard management practices of eczema, finds a new study by a team including researchers from Cardiff University.

In the largest trial of emollient bath additives to date, 482 children were randomly allocated to two groups: one group was asked to use bath additives for a whole year and the other was asked not to use them. Families completed short questionnaires weekly for the first 16 weeks, then every four weeks from 16 to 52 weeks.

The results revealed there was no meaningful difference in eczema severity between the groups over the year. There was also no difference in the number of problems experienced with bathing, like stinging or redness following the bath, which affected a third of children in both groups.

Dr Nick Francis, Clinical Reader at Cardiff University and practicing GP, said:

“Bath emollients are frequently used to control eczema but our study shows there is unlikely to be any extra benefit.

“Families of children with eczema should continue to use leave-on emollient moisturisers and avoid soap.”

Dr Miriam Santer, from the University of Southampton and chief investigator, added:

“This is good news, as it gets us one step closer to knowing how best to advise parents of children with eczema, although many research questions remain on other aspects of eczema treatments.”

Standard management of childhood eczema includes use of soap substitutes, leave-on emollients and corticosteroid ointments.

The BATHE trial was funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme and led by the University of Southampton in partnership with the University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Nottingham.