Researchers green-light steroid creams to treat children with eczema

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Parents are often concerned about treating their child's eczema, a dry itchy skin condition, with steroid creams and ointments, but new research suggests it won't cause negative side effects.

One of the biggest fears for parents, as well as some health care practitioners, is that regular and long-term use of topical corticosteroids (also known as TCS) could cause the skin to thin, and prior research on this has yielded mixed results. But a new Australian study, announced April 21, aims to quell those concerns.

This study involved 70 children who were treated with sufficient topical steroids to keep them virtually free of eczema, plus a control group of 22 children who didn't receive the medication. All of the children were evaluated for signs of steroid-related side effects using a technique called dermoscopy, a mini-microscope that can detect subtle side effects, the researchers said. They found no difference between the children using the topical ointments and those in the control group.

"Our results show that normal routine use of TCS does not cause skin thinning, and parents should be reassured," said head researcher Gayle Fischer in a statement.

WebMD notes that prior research on the side effect of steroid creams and ointments has been unclear, citing that other studies have shown that if you use these creams for a long time at very high doses, your skin gets thinner. "If your skin gets too thin, it splits and scars easily," states the website. "But it takes a long time for this to happen, and the skin returns to normal after the treatment is stopped."

The UK's National Health Socity (NIS) reports that around 10 percent of babies and small children have eczema, but the good news is that about 75 percent of them grow out of it by the time they reach their teens or younger.

If your child has eczema, the NIS recommends, in addition to medical treatment, getting into a bedtime routine, since sleeping may be difficult as your child's skin may get hotter and itchier at night. Apply a moisturizer at least 20 minutes before bedtime, and keep their bedroom cool. Also, be careful about using products such as soap and bubble baths, which a study shows can aggravate symptoms.

For more tips from the NHS:

Access the study's abstract here:

Watch a video on how to identify and treat your child's eczema: