We can’t live without water and it is an area which many parents suspect may have something to do with the eczema. Water that we drink or bathe in has been covered in this post, but today’s post is focused on Water Hardness and reviewing the research in this area.
October 2015 Study on Water hardness and eczema at 1 and 4 year of age in the INMA birth cohort (INMA refers to Infancia y Medio Ambiente, a birth cohort study in Spain; see INMA website for many interesting research on environmental factors during pregnancy and early life)
Finding: No association between eczema and water hardness at home or bathing exposure during the first four years of life
Finding: Exposure to hard water and infant swimming interact with atopic status increased the prevalence of childhood eczema. A breaching of the epidermal barrier by detergents or salts in hard water and by chlorine-based oxidants in swimming pool water might explain these interactions.
February 2011 Study on A randomised controlled trial of ion-exchange water softeners for the treatment of eczema in children (SWET Trial) (full report)
Finding: Water softeners provided no additional benefit to usual care in this study population.
Finding: Water hardness in the area where 6-7 year-old schoolchildren live has some relevance to the development of eczema.
It seemed that although water hardness is believed by parents to have an impact on eczema, this is not seen in research, the most definite trial is that in Feb 2011 which was a randomised controlled trial as opposed to analysis of data.
On the study noted that swimming worsened eczema but swimming is useful for killing of staph bacteria (and a fun and fit way as opposed to bleach bath). Some advice by doctors who have addressed the topic of swimming on this blog:
Dr Christopher Bridgett on swimming Q&A
It’s good to say that swimming and atopic eczema usually go together just fine. The problem is caused by the water – it washes off a layer of the skin’s protection and leaves it very porous to water loss afterwards: a thin application of moisturizer before swimming protects against this.
Otherwise, the chemicals in the water of a swimming pool are disinfectants – chlorine, & bromine for example – they can be good for the skin, as their antibacterial effect is anti-inflammatory. However these additives can irritate too.
Dr Lynn Chiam in interview on teen eczema and sports
Swimming for long periods during a bad flare of eczema is not advisable as the swimming pool water may cause more skin dryness.
What’s your experience with hard water or did you purchase any of the water treatment kit for your home? Share in the comments so that other parents can learn from your experience!