Does hard water affect the development of eczema? Children living in areas with hard water seem to have higher rates of eczema, raising the possibility that softening water might be an effective preventive measure. A recent study evaluated the effectiveness of home installation of water softeners in preventing the development of eczema in infants with a family history of atopy.
Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. Hard water is high in dissolved minerals, largely calcium and magnesium.
Eczema or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. We have discussed it previously in many blog posts.
Often times than not, causes of eczema are often not found. Many treatments are aimed at just improving the symptoms because underlying causes are not identifiable.
A pilot study enrolled pregnant women who lived in areas with hard water, defined as a calcium carbonate level greater than 250mg/L. Families were randomly assigned to a home installation of an ion-exchange water softener or continued use of domestic hard water.
After 6 months, visible eczema was present in 33% of infants in the water-softener group vs 48% in the hard water group. Eczema scores were also lower in the water softener group.
The study has suggested that home water softener installation is effective for the prevention of eczema in infants at high risk.
Since the early 1990s studies from various countries have shown an increased risk of eczema in hard water regions. However later studies have not shown benefit of using water softeners in the long term management of patients with confirmed eczema. Using water softeners may help the development of eczema and not necessarily the treatment of it, more studies will be needed to determine this.
Up to 85% of the United States uses hard water, with Midwest, Mountain region and South having the highest levels.