Babies trial study of Softened Water for Eczema Prevention (SOFTER)

A new study will for the first time investigate if using water softeners can reduce the risk of infants getting eczema.

Isida Pierce, 30 from Greenwich, had a daughter, Alessia, in May. She decided to enrol Alessia in a Guy’s and St Thomas’ study because her husband Edward has eczema and psoriasis.

Isida, who works in marketing, said: “Ed has had eczema all of his life and says living with eczema and psoriasis is uncomfortable and annoying.

If the research helps with the prevention of eczema then it could be very useful for us because Alessia is at risk of eczema, and it’s nice to know it might be helping others too.”

The study of Softened Water for Eczema Prevention (SOFTER) is the first time that water softeners will be installed into the homes of babies at high risk of having eczema.

This includes babies who have a parent or sibling with eczema, asthma or hay fever.

Eczema, a common itchy skin condition, is known to be more common in infants who live in hard water areas.

Around 20 per cent of children in the UK have eczema at some stage, with the figure rising to 50-60 per cent if there is a family history of the condition, according to NHS figures.

Isida said: “So far Alessia hasn’t shown any signs of eczema or other skin problems so we are hopeful that she won’t develop it.”

The SOFTER trial involves recruiting women during pregnancy if their unborn child is thought to be at high risk of having the condition, and if they live in a hard water area.

The women are then selected to have a water softener installed or not and while they know if they have, this information is not passed onto the researchers.

The softened water, which has minerals such as calcium and magnesium removed, is used to wash the babies.

A number of skin measurements, including water loss, pH levels, detergent deposits and skin bacteria, are taken from the baby at birth, one month, three months and six months to check for any changes to their skin.

Professor Carsten Flohr, consultant dermatologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “It is the first time that researchers are looking at the effect of using water softeners on babies in their own homes.”

For more information about the study visit: https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/research/ studies/dermatology. aspx#na.

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