Eczema is a chronic, itchy skin rash that typically develops within the first six months of life, according to the National Eczema Association. There is no cure for the condition, but according to a new study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, having especially hard tap water may increase a baby's risk of developing it.
British researchers looked at 1,300 3-month olds and tested the water in their homes for its mineral content and chlorine levels. What they found was that when the water was hard, babies were 87 percent more likely to have eczema. That's pretty significant.
Explains lead author Carsten Flohr, Ph.D. of the Institute of Dermatology at King's College London, "Our study builds on growing evidence of a link between exposure to hard water and the risk of developing eczema in childhood."
It's important to note the study was not designed to establish cause and effect, but rather an association between hard water and eczema. But Dr. Flohr says, "We are about to launch a feasibility trial to assess whether installing a water softener in the homes of high-risk children around the time of birth may reduce the risk of eczema and whether reducing chlorine levels brings any additional benefits."
The area where we live is known for having especially hard water, so that information would be of great interest to me. My children do not suffer from eczema, but I can only imagine that if hard water exacerbates one kind of skin condition, it might not be ideal for a host of others.
For now, the takeaway for parents of babies with eczema is that hard water could be one factor contributing to flare-ups. It's definitely worth discussing with your child's pediatrician.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.