Bath additives for child eczema ineffective

Bath oils used to help treat eczema in children offer no meaningful benefit as part of their care, study finds.

Emollient bath additives are estimated to make up as much as a third of the cost of treating eczema in the UK, according to BBC.

But a new trial, published in the BMJ, found "no evidence of clinical benefit" when they were used in addition to other treatments for the condition.

Experts said it suggested the £23m spent each year by the NHS on the additives could be used better.

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Eczema is the most common inflammatory skin condition in childhood and often lasts for years.

Emollients come in three forms - leave-on emollients, soap substitutes and bath additives - and are often prescribed in combination with each other.

Although there was evidence that leave-on emollients and soap substitutes were effective, until now there had been a lack of strong research on how well bath additives worked, authors of this new paper said.

For their study they randomly assigned 482 children aged one to 11 from England and Wales into two groups - with one receiving the bath emollient and the other not using it.

All of the children continued their normal eczema care routine, including regular use of leave-on emollients and corticosteroid creams, which reduce inflammation and irritation.

Symptoms had improved in both groups over the course of 16 weeks, but there had been no statistically significant difference between them, the trial found.

There were also no significant differences between the two groups across other measures, including eczema severity over one year, number of eczema flare-ups, quality of life and cost-effectiveness.

Dr Miriam Santer, a GP and associate professor at Southampton University in primary care research, who led the study, said: "We don't need to tell people to put the bath additives in the water anymore.

"That will save trouble for families, knowing how best to treat the eczema and which treatments really help, and will also save the NHS money.

"The bath additives don't work - basically you're pouring stuff down the plughole."

But she added that people should continue to use the leave-on emollients and soap substitutes.