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Does hard water cause eczema?

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Youngsters with eczema are being sought to take part in a study, being supported by specialists at Leicester’s hospitals.

The study, which includes consultant dermatologists Dr Robin Graham-Brown and Dr Alex Milligan from Leicester’s hospitals, aims to understand if softer water around the home can improve eczema in children.

The research is being funded by the Department of Health and is recruiting children aged six months to 16 years from various hard-water areas in England, including Leicestershire.

The study is being led by Professor Hywel Williams at the University of Nottingham. He said: "Eczema in primary school-age children has been found to be more common in hard water areas, but no-one really knows why" he said.

"Carrying out a proper randomised controlled study will help find the answer. If ion-exchange water softeners are found to improve the symptoms of eczema, this will be an extremely important finding for both patients and doctors. Many patients worry about the possible side effects of the usual treatments for eczema, so this would be a welcome addition to their treatment options".

Dr Graham-Brown, Leicester Hospitals clinical services director, said: "Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are hard water areas and we know from our own work that 20% of pre-school children have eczema in our area.

"This is therefore an ideal geographical patch from which to draw patients and to try and get a better understanding of the potential role of water softeners in this condition."

The research will look at the effects on children with eczema of deliberately softening all the water in the home, apart from a single tap in the kitchen for drinking.

The study started recruiting in 2007, and needs another 100 children to reach its target of 310 participants.

If you would like further information, or would like to help with the trial, please contact the Softened Water Eczema Trial team at the University of Nottingham, Telephone 0115 846 8623. Softened Water Eczema Trial (SWET) website:

(Source: University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust: December 2008)

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Posted On: 7 December, 2008
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


Created by: myVMC