Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Parents of babies suffering from eczema battle to bring relief to their children.

For them, there is little worse than seeing their babies in distress - the agony of seeing an infant agitated by a red, weeping rash or irritated, scaly skin, a terrible discomfort that rarely goes away.

According to the South African National Eczema Association, eczema affects 10% of all infants. Fortunately, some children grow out of it, but for others, it is a lifelong battle.

Lutho Mandaba said her daughter, 5, had battled with eczema from birth. Her child nearly always had scratches on her red-cheeked face, the result of constant itching and scratching.

“Her skin would react terribly to just about anything, all year long. We tried different soaps and baby creams. Some doctors said we should try soap that was less harsh on her skin. Others said we should avoid soap altogether. But the problem didn't go away,” said Mandaba.

It was only when she and her family moved to an area where residents used borehole and rain water that her daughter’s skin condition began to improve.

“At first we didn't attribute her progress to water because we thought she was growing out of it (eczema). Until we noticed that when we visited family members her skin would go red and dry up again.

“Now her skin is perfect - we still use the same products as we did when she was younger, and she does not react to them.”

Many experts believe that a daily bath can be helpful for children with eczema, but the importance of bathing babies in water that is free of calcium carbonate, chlorine, and other chemicals has recently come to light.

Two studies conducted in 2016 - one led by King’s College London and the other by Perkin et al - that were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology proved that water hardness caused infant eczema. King’s College London gathered data on more than 1300 three-month-old infants across the UK and proved definitively that hard household water increased the chances of an infant developing eczema by 87%, and found chlorine and other chemicals were likely contributors.

Experts have since warned about a possible link between water-hardness caused by calcium carbonate, chlorine and eczema among children.

Tony Marchesini, managing director of H2O International SA, recommended water-purification systems for families with children suffering from eczema.

“Even if your baby doesn't have eczema, it's essential that the water you bathe them in is softened using an ion-exchange filter and purified using a charcoal system that removes chlorine and other harmful chemicals,” he said.