View all news

New research shows that one of the most widely used treatments for childhood eczema is not helpful

Press release issued: 3 May 2018

The BATHE trial has found that pouring emollient additives into the bath do not add any benefit over standard management. Standard management of childhood eczema includes soap avoidance, leave-on emollients and corticosteroid ointments.

The study was funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme and led by the University of Southampton in partnership with the University of Bristol's Centre for Academic Primary Care, Cardiff University and the University of Nottingham.

482 children from 96 general practices took part, making it by far the largest trial of emollient bath additives to date. Children were randomly allocated to two groups: one group was asked to use bath additives for a whole year and the other was asked not to use them for a whole year. Families completed short questionnaires weekly for the first 16 weeks, then every 4 weeks from 16 to 52 weeks.

There was no meaningful difference in eczema severity between the groups over the year. There was also no difference in the number of problems experienced with bathing, like stinging or redness following the bath, which affected a third of children in both groups.

Families of children with eczema are advised to continue to use leave-on emollient moisturisers and to avoid soap. This research has shown that pouring emollient bath additives into the bath water is very unlikely to offer extra benefit.

Watch a short summary here:

Visit the study website:


Emollient bath additives for the treatment of childhood eczema (BATHE): multicentre pragmatic parallel group randomised controlled trial of clinical and cost effectiveness by Miriam Santer, Matthew J Ridd, Nick A Francis, Beth Stuart, Kate Rumsby, Maria Chorozoglou, Taeko Becque, Amanda Roberts, Lyn Liddiard, Claire Nollett, Julie Hooper, Martina Prude, Wendy Wood, Kim S Thomas, Emma Thomas-Jones, Hywel C Williams, Paul Little. BMJ. May 2018.

BMJ Editorial: New evidence challenges use of bath emollients for children with eczema

BMJ Opinion: Miriam Santer: Patient and carer choice in emollients for eczema treatment is crucial

Further information

About the Centre for Academic Primary Care

The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) at the University of Bristol is a leading centre for primary care research in the UK, one of nine forming the NIHR School for Primary Care Research. It sits within Bristol Medical School, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for population health research and teaching. Follow us on Twitter: @capcbristol.

About the NIHR

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research.

Established by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NIHR:

  • funds high quality research to improve health
  • trains and supports health researchers
  • provides world-class research facilities
  • works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all
  • involves patients and the public at every step.

For further information, visit the NIHR website

Edit this page