Eczema Linked to Hard Water Exposure.
One of the most frustrating things about eczema is that we don’t know why it occurs. Yes, we understand the physical reaction, how it damages the skin, but we just don’t know the cause of it. Is it genetic? Is it an allergy? Is it by chance? Is it a normal skin reaction that just “happens” and some kids simply get it worse than others? Now, thanks to a study in the UK, new potential causes of childhood eczema may have been revealed. The key may be hard water.
Hard water is water that has a high content of minerals. Whenever you see soap scum in your bath or lime scale in your kettle, that is caused by hard water. Generally, we just drink it. The WHO (World Health Organization) has stated that there is no evidence that it can cause health problems in human beings, but new studies have suggested that children who have been exposed to hard water may have an increased risk of developing childhood eczema.
Although there have been previous studies that have suggested a link between hard water and eczema in school children, this is the first that focuses specifically on babies. Researchers in the UK examined 1,303 infants from around the country for symptoms of eczema and the hardness level of the water they were exposed to. Apparently, babies that were growing up in areas that had hard water were 87% more likely to develop eczema than babies that grew up in areas with soft water.
As of yet, it’s still unknown what it is about the hard water that could be the cause. Some doctors suspect it could be a common mineral in the water called calcium carbonate that is causing a weakening of the skin barrier in children. Some believe that other factors, such as the water’s pH level, could actually be the “smoking gun”.
In an upcoming follow-up study, researchers are planning to put water softeners in the homes of some high risk children to find out exactly what is causing eczema in hard water communities. Once a solid link has been established, other precautions can be put into place to protect infants and children both in the UK and elsewhere in the world.
As research is ongoing, this method of eczema risk reduction falls into the “better safe than sorry” category. If you are planning on having more children, and you live in an area with hard water, it might be worth taking a look at some methods of softening it. Who knows, it could make a real difference!
Russell, Peter. “Hard Water Link to Childhood Eczema.” http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/864302. Medscape. 03 June 2016. Web. 05 June 2016.