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Effects of Woollen Clothing on Atopic Dermatitis

Do certain clothing materials exacerbate the symptoms of atopic dermatitis (AD)? A recent study examined the effects of superfine merino wool on symptoms of mild to moderate AD in children. Woollen clothing has traditionally been considered an irritant that should be avoided by people who suffer from the skin condition, despite limited evidence.

The trial – the findings of which were published in the British Journal of Dermatology – was a randomised, assessor-blinded, crossover study of 39 patients with mild to moderate AD, aged between four weeks and three years. Over three months, the study compared superfine merino wool ensembles with standard cotton clothing chosen by the participants’ parents.

Participants were assigned to wool or cotton clothing and assessed every three weeks for six weeks, before crossing over to wear the other clothing material for a further six-week period. The primary end-point was the SCORing Atopic Dermatitis (SCORAD) index after each 6-week period.

Overall, superfine wool clothing was associated with a reduction in mean SCORAD of 2.5 percent at three weeks and 7.6 percent at six weeks when compared with cotton. Changing materials from wool to cotton resulted in an increase in scores.

The findings suggest that general practitioners may be able to recommend clothing made from superfine merino wool for children who suffer from atopic dermatitis, as part of the condition’s management in primary care.

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Su, J.C. et al. (July 2017) Determining Effects of Superfine Sheep wool in Infantile Eczema (DESSINE): a randomized paediatric crossover study. British Journal of Dermatology. Volume 177, issue 1, p.125-133. DOI: 10.1111/bjd.15376.

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