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New website helps improve eczema in children and young people

Southampton researchers have developed a new website to help improve eczema in children and young people.

Hundreds of families and under 25s have trialled Eczema Care Online in nationwide research, with many showing significant improvement within the study year.

The website was built using LifeGuide software supported by the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre. LifeGuide allows researchers to easily create and test websites to support healthy behaviour.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, dry, cracked and sore.

It is very common and can have a large impact on quality of life and costs to the NHS. However, treatments can be complex, and people often don't receive enough advice about how to use them.

Miriam Santer, Professor of Primary Care Research at the University of Southampton, is lead author of the study.

She said: “Eczema can be a debilitating condition for so many people, especially children and young people.

"This website gives both patients and clinicians evidence-based resources that have been shown to improve symptoms.”

Support for young people

The website aims to help young people with eczema and parents or carers of children with eczema to manage their own condition. It explains what eczema is and how to use eczema treatments. It also provides information on how to avoid potential trigger factors and support for living well with eczema.

The study, published in The BMJ, had 650 participants. Some had access to the website alongside their usual care, and others received usual care alone from a clinician.

Those who accessed the website had improved symptoms after six months, compared to those who received usual care alone. The improvements continued for another six months.

The study also asked for feedback on the website, which was very positive.

One participant said: “It was one of the best websites I’ve ever used; it was really easy to use and provided the answers to your specific questions. I didn’t have to read through lots of stuff that wasn’t relevant to me.”

Positive clinical outcomes

The researchers say that empowering parents and young people to take ownership of the condition can lead to sustained positive clinical outcomes at an affordable cost. They have made the resource free to use for anyone.

Professor Santer said: “Unfortunately, health professionals often don't have enough time to go into all the details about how to look after eczema. People with eczema and their families often report they have been given insufficient information about the condition and how to manage it.

She added: “We hope that the website will be rapidly rolled out within the NHS to provide effective help for eczema without causing extra workload for staff.”

The study was funded by the NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research. It was a collaboration between the University of Southampton, University of Nottingham, University of Bristol, University of East Anglia and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In Southampton, it involved researchers from the Primary Care Research Centre and Psychology.


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