Eczema is a form of allergic dermatitis that causes the skin — usually on the face, elbows and back of knees — to thicken and become inflamed, scaly and itchy. This reaction may be due to synthetic materials, scented perfumes or soaps. Atopic dermatitis is a hereditary form of eczema that affects infants and young children.

At the School of Paediatrics & Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, researchers investigated the effects of probiotics on young children with atopic dermatitis.

In this study, 53 children, aged 6-18 months with moderate or severe eczema, completed a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The children were given a probiotic or placebo twice daily for eight weeks, with a final assessment at 16 weeks. After the treatment, the reduction in eczema was significant in the probiotic group but not the placebo group. Pleased with these results, researchers concluded that supplementation with probiotics could benefit moderate to severe eczema in young children.

Likewise, at the Royal Veterinary & Agricultural University in Germany, researchers wanted to determine whether probiotics may alleviate small intestinal inflammation and strengthen the intestinal barrier function in children with eczema. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, probiotic lactobacilli (beneficial bacteria) were administered for six weeks to 41 children with moderate and severe eczema. Gastrointestinal symptoms were recorded before and during treatment. The results showed a significant decrease in the frequency of gastrointestinal symptoms for the probiotic group.

Sources: Arch Dis Child. 2005 Sep;90(9):892-7. Epub 2005 Apr 29. J Pediatr. 2004 Nov;145(5):612-6