Bath oils that claim to treat eczema in children have been found ineffective in a study published in the British Medical Journal.
The trial found that there was ‘no evidence of clinical benefit’ when these products were used alongside other treatments.
‘We don't need to tell people to put the bath additives in the water anymore,’ said Miriam Santer, associate professor at Southampton University who led the study.
‘That will save trouble for families, knowing how best to treat the eczema and which treatments really help, and will also save the NHS money.’
Emollients cost the NHS £23 million a year and experts say this money could be better spent.
While there is research that suggests leave-on emollients and soap substitutes are effective, there is not enough research to prove that bath additives work.
‘That doesn't mean they shouldn't be available on sale for people who want to give them a try or use them out of personal preference, but the notion that one should prescribe them and spend public money on them is heavily undermined,’ said Martin Ward Platt, a consultant paediatrician in neonatal at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle.
‘There's a good case now to not have these on prescription and use the money elsewhere.’
The study randomly assigned 482 children between the ages of 1 to 11 from England and Wales into two group, with one group not using bath emollients.
Symptoms improved in both groups, who continued with their normal eczema routine with or without the additions bath emollients, but there was no statistical difference between them – proving that the bath additives may not make a difference to healthcare.
The study adds that more research is needed to find the optimal treatment but confirms ‘widespread clinical consensus’ that the role of emollients as soap substitutes is effective.