Vitamin D for winter eczema – Try it
© 2016 Roy Benaroch, MD
Eczema is a chronic, itchy skin condition seen in about 1 in 3 children. The skin is dry and scaly, and often red and inflamed. Eczema often seems to get worse in winter, in part because hot dry air from the furnace further dries out the skin.
Or, maybe, there’s another reason. Researchers in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (which, by the way, looks lovely) postulated that another reason for eczema to worsen in winter was decreased vitamin D levels. Most of us get our vitamin D from sunshine, and in the cold winters people spend less time outside. Less outside, less sunshine, less vitamin D. So what happens if you supplement children with eczema, and have them take a drop of extra vitamin D in the winter?
107 children were enrolled in the study, which was published in 2014. The average age was 9, and almost all of the children had what the authors characterized as “moderate” eczema. Half of the children were randomized to receive a vitamin D supplement (1000 IU once a day), and the other half a placebo drop; all of them were instructed to continue their typical eczema care, which usually consistent of skin moisturizers. A simple, clean study.
A month later, data were collected. There were no significant (or even mild) side effects in either group. 64% of the children who received extra vitamin D had improved skin, versus 43% in the control (placebo) group. Not a huge difference, but with an intervention that’s safe and cheap, that’s an important result that can potentially help a lot of children.
Some criticisms of the study: the authors didn’t check vitamin D levels before or after the intervention—so we don’t know if the children were actually vitamin D deficient, or if vitamin D supplementation was more likely to work in children with low levels. And the study didn’t involve many younger children (who are more likely to have eczema), and didn’t include any children less than 2 years of age.
Still: many children, we know, are vitamin D deficient, especially in the winter; and many children suffer from itchy eczema. At usual doses (like 1000 IU a day), vitamin D supplements are virtually free of risk. Worth a try, if your child has winter eczema? You bet.