Primary care researchers are to investigate the best emollient for treating childhood eczema, which affects one in five children in the UK and commonly interferes with sleep, play and mood.
The new study, called BEE (Best Emollient for Eczema), will compare four of the most commonly used emollients in a randomised clinical trial.
“Doctors and nurses are unsure which emollient to try first and prescribing varies”
The emollients to be looked at are Aveeno lotion, Diprobase cream, Doublebase gel and Epaderm ointment.
The trial will involve recruiting 520 children through GP surgeries and giving them one of the four emollients to use for at least four months.
To assess the long-term effects, there will also be follow-up after 12 months. Parents and carers of children taking part will be asked to regularly assess and record their child’s eczema symptoms.
The study will involve researchers at the universities of Bristol, Nottingham and Southampton, which have been awarded £1.4m by the National Institute for Health Research.
Lead researcher Dr Matthew Ridd, consultant senior lecturer in primary healthcare at Bristol University, said: “There are many different types and makes of emollient but hardly any research comparing them.
“As a result, doctors and nurses are unsure which emollient to try first and prescribing varies from one person to another,” he said. “This can be confusing and frustrating for families who often try several emollients before they find one that works for their child.
“Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema,” he said. “However, this study should help us find out which of these commonly prescribed emollients is most effective, and which is easiest for children, parents and carers to use.”
He added: “We hope that our results will help shape future national treatment guidelines and reduce the often ‘hit and miss’ nature of prescribing.”
As reported by Nursing Times yesterday, a separate group of UK researchers say they have revealed how exposure to hard water could potentially contribute to the development of eczema.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield and King’s College London have identified a mechanism through which hard water damages the protective skin barrier.
They now plan to embark on a trial to investigate whether installation of a domestic water softener around the time of birth can prevent skin barrier breakdown and eczema in hard water areas.