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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 08:17 GMT 09:17 UK
Washing behind eczema rise
Baby
Parents should avoid soapy detergents
Children are at greater risk of developing eczema because of an increasing use of soaps, bath and shower gels and baby wipes.

A study revealed that one in five children now develops the condition and blamed warmer and less well-ventilated homes.

Less than 5 % of British children developed the skin condition in the 1950s, but now up to 20 % of young people are affected at some stage.

Dr Michael Cork, a consultant dermatologist at Sheffield University, urged parents to cut down on soapy detergents and baby wipes and to switch to moisturising emollients.


If we do not change the increasing exposure to these environmental agents, the prevalence of atopic eczema is going to increase even further

Dr Michael Cork, Sheffield University

Rising rates

Dr Cork said the rising eczema rates had been mirrored by increasing water consumption and sales of soaps, bubble baths, shower gels and shampoos.

Between 1961 and 1998 the water consumption rates quadrupled from 11 litres per person per day to 51 litres.

And the number of people using baby wipes, which can contain alcohol and crude detergents has also soared.

Dr Cork said the rising rates of atopic eczema must be linked to environmental changes.

He told the BBC: "We have been using more and more products that break down the skin barrier.

"Soap and detergents just strip out the fats in between the skin cells, so if they can be replaced with emollients which are positive and repair the skin barrier and are very mild surfactants then that should be protective to the skin."

Family history

He said families with a history of eczema should look at new ways of keeping clean and that they should avoid using baby wipes unless they can find emollient-based ones.

"Soaps and detergents break down the skin barrier and this effect is more pronounced in those with atopic eczema.

"If we do not change the increasing exposure to these environmental agents, the prevalence of atopic eczema is going to increase even further."

The research is due to be published later this month in the journal Dermatology in Practice.

Margaret Cox, chief executive of the National Eczema Society said: "This research is a step in providing practical information to help parents cope with their child's eczema and reduce triggers.

"It suggests minimising environmental triggers in the home and using emollients preventatively could be a major help in reducing eczema levels."

An "environmental eczema helpline was launched today by the makers of E45 emollient cleansers, on 08451 203045.

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Dr Michael Cork
"We have been using more and more products that break down the skin barrier"
See also:

26 Apr 02 | Health
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26 Mar 02 | England
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28 Nov 00 | Wales
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