One Treatment Option for Pediatric Eczema Might Already Be in Your Bathroom Cabinet

Skin conditions can cause physical, emotional, and financial duress. And, since atopic dermatitis in infants is often linked with asthma, allergies, hay fever, sleep problems, and weight issues, the total cost of eczema treatment could scale $3.8 billion annually.

Skin conditions are more than just physically debilitating — they can cause psychological and financial duress. Research published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology reported that atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, could cost up to 35% of their discretionary income. Since the condition in infants is often linked with asthma, allergies, hay fever, sleep problems, and weight issues; the total cost of eczema treatment could scale $3.8 billion annually.

While there are many treatment methods on the market, experts have suggested an option under $10 that could provide relief while saving one’s wallet: moisturizing newborns with petroleum jelly until they are six months old.

“We could really save a lot of newborns — and save families – a lot of suffering,” Steve Xu, MD, a resident physician in the Department of Dermatology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “It’s also a pretty good deal in terms of cost.”

Xu and his team had analyzed study of 124 babies considered “high-risk of developing atopic dermatitis” from 2014 that showed parents were successfully able to reduce their infants’ atopic dermatitis risk by 50% simply by moisturizing (everywhere on the skin but the scalp) daily or at least five times a week. The treatments used in the previous study were over-the-counter (OTC) ointment, moisturizing cream, or sunflower seed oil.

In Xu’s follow up analysis, his team examined cost; using a daily moisturizer for the baby’s first six months was cheap. A six-month supply of the cheapest moisturizer in the analysis, Vaseline petroleum jelly, cost $7.30. And the most expensive moisturizer, Vaniply ointment would only set the family back $173.39 for a six-month supply.

Both the National Eczema Association and The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend Vaseline petroleum jelly and petroleum jelly as one of the top moisturizers for treatment. But, despite the recommendations and fragrance-free formula, some parents have their reservations, since petroleum jelly is a byproduct of the oil refining process.

However, while moisturizers are key for any eczema treatment, the scientific benefits in moisturizing as a preventative method had yet to produce clear evidence as to how exactly it could inhibit the condition. But some researchers hypothesize using moisturizers on infants could help “correct” the outer-layer skin defects on babies who might develop eczema.

According to Xu, “Gentle, bland moisturizing have very little to no risk of harm to newborns.”

While larger (and longer) studies are needed to confirm the best preventative method for atopic dermatitis in the babies who were moisturized after their first six months, this follow up analysis does urge parents to consult their pediatricians first before making any rash decisions in over-moisturizing their infants.

The follow up analysis, “Cost-effectiveness of Prophylactic Moisturization for Atopic Dermatitis, was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The original study, “Emollient enhancement of the skin barrier from birth offers effective atopic dermatitis prevention,” was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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