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Topical Corticosteroid Cream not Harmful for Use in Children with Eczema, Study Finds

By HERWriter
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Eczema related image Photo: Getty Images

Parents are naturally reluctant to use a medication that might cause their child harm. However, in treating children with eczema, topical corticosteroids are a mainstay of therapy despite these concerns. For years, we have been told that chronic use of topical steroids can contribute to various side effects including skin thinning. A recent study performed in Australia showed that long-term use of topical corticosteroids did not cause these major negative side effects.

The study was led by Dr. Gayle Fischer at University of Sydney in Australia and published in the journal of Pediatric Dermatology April 11, 2011 edition. There were 70 children treated with enough topical steroids to keep their eczema symptom free and 22 other children served as the control group who were not given any medication nor had used any in the past.

Researchers then measured the thickness of the children’s skin, using a device called a dermascope, in skin areas that were both treated and not treated with topical steroids. Measurements from both groups of children were then compared against each other. “They found that the children using TCS (topical corticosteroids) had no evidence of skin thinning even though they were using enough TCS to produce complete control of their eczema.” (4) There also were no differences between the skin thicknesses in each group of children.

Other side effects that TCS are thought to contribute to such as striae, atrophic scars, or purpuras were also examined and there were no significant findings that showed an increase in those skin problems.

A significant proportion of the childhood population in the U.S. has eczema. In a 2003 survey, “10.7% of children were reported to have a diagnosis of eczema in the past 12 months. Prevalence ranged from 8.7 to 18.1% between states and districts.” (2)

Add a Comment3 Comments


I agree that the study group was small and I just tried to find the length of the study but I am unable to get anything but the abstract to read.  

I agree that using less risk potential products to start treatment for any problem is best but there may be cases that don't respond to those treatments and having the option to use topical steroids with less concern is what this study was attempting to show.  

As with any study on any treatment, it takes more than one time to demonstrate more confidence in the result. This article was intended to let people know that an attempt to explore this concern was made and in this group for however long it was tested showed this response. 

Thank you for posting and letting the readers know that there are alternative treatments they should consider first. 

January 17, 2012 - 4:49pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Michele Blacksberg RN)

Hi Michelle, There is an estimated 20% of the American population that suffer from eczema /atopic dermatitis and many of the cases have not been diagnosed by a physician. That means these patients treat themselves or accept the recommendation of a pharmacist or use a product seen on TV.

Topical steroids are easily available and relatively inexpensive over the counter. it is our responsibility as health professionals to share the healthiest & safest therapy available.

Hydrocortisone cream is advertised for itchy skin. People think it's ok to use it all over their bodies. Using HC cream on your face can develop symptoms that look like rosascea.

If you could recommend a soap and moisturizer that would improve skin condition with equal or better results than hydrocortisone, wouldn't you do so?

January 17, 2012 - 10:35pm
EmpowHER Guest

As a pharmacist who understands scientific data, hydrocortisone therapy and eczema, I have to strongly disagree with this article!
A population of 70 is not large enough to conclusively reach these findings. TCS used over a decade will show entirely findings. The study does not indicate it's length, but I have to presume it was short term.

I am strongly opposed to using any potentially toxic chemicals such as TCS to treat eczema and atopic dermatits. I offer instead natural skincare products that are chemical. fragrance, colorant and steroid free. Skin Free Rx Skincare takes advantage of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory moeities found in nature, such as in extra virgin olive oil, shea butter, and tamanu. These products can be found at skinfree (dot) net. Skin Free Rx Skincare is recommended by the National Eczema Association.

January 17, 2012 - 4:15pm
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