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The British government is looking into the effect of hard water on eczema sufferers. The aim by a study supported by the Department of Health is to test the effect of installing water softeners into eczema sufferers’ homes in a bid to alleviate the painful condition.

Scientists will test the effect on children between 6 months and 16 years old who have moderate to severe eczema. The reason why water softeners are being installed is because past studies have revealed a correlation between hard water areas and a prevalence of eczema.

In the UK, nearly 20% of children have eczema conditions of some level and it is usually found on the ankles, face, knees and neck.

The study originally started in 2007 with 230 participants and before it comes to a conclusion in August 2009, the study leaders want to enrol another 80 participants.

The study involves the children’s parents keeping a record of the eczema symptoms and the child wearing a wrist band that detects scratching at night. Also, for 3 months a water softener is installed in the home and then removed for 4 weeks to observe if there is any change to the symptoms.

One mother tells the story of her son’s participation in the study:

Anne-Marie said “Dylan (her son) had bleeding sores, and even changing him was heart-breaking. Every time his skin was exposed, he started scratching. And he wouldn’t sleep for more than an hour without waking up to scratch.”

“We had about a dozen different creams on prescription and I was at my wit’s end,” she added.

The water softener resulted in a fast and pronounced improvement in the baby’s condition.

Anne-Marie described the effect of using softened water in the home: “Less than two weeks after the softener was installed there was a dramatic improvement. Now there’s barely a mark on him. He’s a completely different baby.”

From Portsmouth University, Professor Tara Dean who is looking after the study said: “If water softeners are found to improve the symptoms of eczema it will be a breakthrough for both patients and doctors.”

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