A cream routinely given to children with eczema may actually cause them more harm than good.
Eczema can be itchy and painful
A survey of 100 British children treated with aqueous cream has found it irritated over half of them.
Their symptoms ranged from redness and itchiness to burning and stinging, which risk making their condition worse.
Writing in The Pharmaceutical Journal, the researchers urged patients and clinicians to be aware of the problem.
The survey, carried out by Dr Michael Cork, a skin specialist at Sheffield Children's Hospital, found that 56% of children reacted badly to aqueous cream.
However, other emollients irritated just 17% of children.
Several children who found aqueous cream irritating when applied as an emollient reported no problems when it was used as a soap substitute.
An emollient is rubbed into the skin to soothe and moisten it, while a soap
substitute is simply used to keep it clean.
Peter Lapsley, chief executive of the Skin Care Campaign, which represents
skin disease charities, said the findings appeared to back up anecdotal evidence.
"Aqueous cream was designed as a soap substitute and is useful for that purpose, but this audit confirms that clinicians and carers must be vigilant for signs of an irritant reaction where it is used as an emollient in children with eczema.
"Many children reportedly call it 'stingy' cream, and in one extreme case we
heard about a child who screams when it is used."
Around 20% of young Britons are now estimated to suffer from eczema. This compares to just 5% 50 years ago.
A number of studies have suggested that increased use of soaps, bath and shower gels and baby wipes may be behind the rise.
In a study published last year, Dr Cork urged parents, in particular those with a history of eczema, to cut down on soapy detergents and baby wipes and to switch to moisturising emollients.