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Water softener trial shows no benefit to children with eczema

14 September 2011

The results of the Soft Water Eczema Trial (SWET) have shown that the severity of eczema in children is not reduced by providing them with softer water at home.

SWET was a randomised, observer-blind trial involving 336 children with moderate or severe atopic eczema. Participants were randomised to one of two groups. Those in the first group received usual eczema care and had an ion-exchange water softener installed in their home, while those in the second group received usual eczema care alone. 

The primary outcome was change in eczema severity (according to the six area, six sign atopic dermatitis [SASSAD] severity score) at 12 weeks, measured by research nurses who were blinded to treatment allocation. The mean reduction in SASSAD at 12 weeks was -5.0 (20% improvement) for the water softener group and -5.7% (22% improvement) for the usual care group. Despite this the participants, who were not blind to the intervention, considered that they had benefited from the water softener.

SWET was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme (NIHR HTA).

The article reporting the results of SWET has recently been rated in the top 2% of articles selected by the Faculty of 1000 (F1000) for their library of published articles in biology and medicine. F1000 is a post-publication peer-review service which holds a database (updated daily) of over 100,000 evaluations of the top published articles in biology and medicine.  Articles are selected, rated, and evaluated by the Faculty of over 10,000 expert scientists and clinical researchers who cover over 3,000 peer-reviewed journals. Find out more by visiting the Faculty of 1000 website.

F1000 commented about SWET that:

"This study is interesting because it clearly demonstrated no benefit of using an ion-exchange water softener in addition to usual care in children with eczema."