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Can emollient therapy prevent atopic dermatitis?

Children and eczema: Presentation of recent scientific literature

The following information were the findings from a small study showing for the first time that emollients may effectively be used to prevent atopic dermatitis in early life.

  • Can the risk of developing atopic dermatitis be lowered? In predisposed children, the risk of developing atopic dermatitis can be reduced by as much as 50% if the right preventative measures are taken.
  • Use emollients! The effect can be achieved by daily use of emollients, including oils, creams/gels and ointments. These should be free from irritants and potential allergens, to offer the best support.
  • Emollients enhance the skin barrier function in various ways - for instance by providing fat to the skin. This prevents cracking and dryness of the skin, and limits irritants and allergens from penetrating the upper skin layer, which is known to cause skin inflammation.

124 newborns participated in the study. They all had a first degree relative with atopic disease, and were therefore considered to be at high risk of developing atopic dermatitis. Within the first 3 weeks of birth and continuing to 6 month of age, parents in one group were asked to apply full-body emollient therapy at least once daily. Parents of the infants in the other group were asked not to use any emollients. All parents were given general advice on infant skin care, such as to avoid soap and bubble baths. At 6 months of age, 43% of the infants in the control group had developed atopic dermatitis whereas this was only 22% of the infants that had been using emollients.

Often, the onset of atopic dermatitis precedes that of allergic disorders such as food allergies, asthma, and allergic rhinitis. Therefore, the researchers note “if confirmed in larger trials, emollient therapy from birth would be a simple and low-cost intervention that could reduce the global burden of allergic diseases",.

Title of publication: Emollient enhancement of the skin barrier from birth offers effective atopic dermatitis prevention.

Date and journal: October, 2014

Link to article: J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Oct;134(4):818-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.
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