Evidence suggests that where there are high levels of calcium carbonate in the home water supply (hard water), eczema is found more often in children.
In a study looking at 1,300 babies aged three months, high levels of calcium carbonate – not chlorine – in household water was associated with almost double the risk of visible eczema. The study compared the households with low levels of calcium carbonate.
This isn’t the first study to show a link between water hardness and eczema in children. As far back as 1998, researchers found that there is a significant and direct correlation between hard water and eczema in children. This risk appears to drop away in teenagers. High chlorine levels was also found to contribute to eczema, but this was not significant by itself.
A Japanese study also found the same link, with eczema amongst six and seven-year-old Japanese children the second highest in 56 countries.
Treating eczema when you can’t remove the cause
Living in a rural area where a hard-water bore is the only real source of bathing and drinking water can present problems for children with eczema. Fortunately the eczema caused by hard water doesn’t seem to persist into teenage years, so managing children’s eczema until it passes becomes the primary concern.
Use of barrier creams and ointments and pH-balanced soaps can usually sufficiently manage symptoms. If symptoms are severe or it’s possible, removing the hard water from the child’s diet and bathing routines as much as possible is desirable. This may mean seeking alternate sources of drinking water, and not bathing completely submerged in water or under a shower, but instead using other methods to clean skin.
How to bathe a child without using a lot of hard water
- If available, use rain water and a facecloth to first lightly lather the body, then to rinse clean. Understandably this isn’t an option in all areas of Australia.
- If another source of softer water is available, use it (bottled water, for instance) in the same way.
- If supplies of soft water are limited, alternate between hard and soft water every second day or so, bathe less, or restrict intake – whichever sees the best results after doing a trial – to either only drinking hard water or only bathing in hard water.
- Use water softeners to soften the hard water you do have.
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