By Robert Preidt
Eczema is a chronic condition marked by itchiness and rashes. The study included 1,300 3-month old infants from across the United Kingdom. Researchers checked hardness -- the water's mineral content -- and chlorine levels in the water supply where the babies lived.
Babies who lived in areas with hard water were up to 87 percent more likely to have eczema, the study found.
"Our study builds on growing evidence of a link between exposure to hard water and the risk of developing eczema in childhood," said lead author Dr. Carsten Flohr, from the Institute of Dermatology at King's College London.
The study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship, so further research is needed to learn more about this apparent link, Flohr added.
"We are about to launch a feasibility trial to assess whether installing a water softener in the homes of high-risk children around the time of birth may reduce the risk of eczema and whether reducing chlorine levels brings any additional benefits," Flohr said in a college news release.
Previous studies have found an association between water hardness and eczema risk in schoolchildren. This is the first study to examine the link in infants, the researchers said.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.