Antibiotics do little to ease kids’ eczema flare-ups

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Estimates suggest that patients receive topical antibiotics for 40 percent of eczema flares, but a new study suggests there is no meaningful benefit from the use of either oral or topical antibiotics for children who are clinically infected with the condition.

Eczema is common, especially in young children, affecting around 1 in 5 children in the UK. Certain bacteria on the skin can contribute to ‘flares’ where the condition worsens. There is little research to show whether antibiotics are helpful or not.

The new study aimed to find out if oral antibiotics or topical creams and ointments applied to the skin help improve severity in children with infected eczema. All children in the study also received standard eczema treatment with steroid creams and emollients (moisturizers) from their doctor.

Published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine, the study of 113 children with non-severely infected eczema showed no significant difference between the two groups in the easing of symptoms at two weeks, four weeks, or three months.

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There was rapid resolution in response to mild-to-moderate strength topical corticosteroids and emollient treatment, but no clinically meaningful benefit from the addition of either oral or topical antibiotics.

“Topical antibiotics, often in combination products with topical corticosteroids, are frequently used to treat eczema flares,” says Nick Francis, clinical reader at Cardiff University who led the study. “Our research shows that even if there are signs of infection, children with milder eczema are unlikely to benefit from antibiotics, and their use can promote resistance and allergy or skin sensitization.

“Providing or stepping up the potency of topical corticosteroids and emollients should be the main focus in the care of milder clinically infected eczema flares.”

Additional researchers from Cardiff University, the University of Toronto, the University of Bristol, the University of Oxford, the University of Dundee, Swansea University, and Public Health Wales are coauthors of the study.

The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme funded the work.

Source: Cardiff University