How parents and children evaluate emollients for childhood eczema: a qualitative study

Eileen J Sutton, Alison R G Shaw, Matthew J Ridd, Miriam Santer, Roberts Amanda, Helen A Baxter, Hywel Williams, Jonathan P Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Background Eczema affects one in five children in the UK. Regular application of emollients is routinely recommended for children with eczema. There are four main emollient types, but no clear evidence of which is best. The current ‘trial and error’ approach to find suitable emollients can be frustrating for parents, children, and clinicians.

Aim To identify how parents and children experience and evaluate emollients.

Design and setting Qualitative interview study, nested within a primary care trial of emollients (Best Emollients for Eczema [BEE] trial).

Method Semi-structured interviews with children with eczema and their parents were conducted. Participants were purposively sampled on emollient type (lotion, cream, gel, or ointment), age, and eczema severity.

Results Forty-four parents were interviewed, with children participating in 24 of those interviews. There was no clear preference for any one emollient type. The strongest theme was the variation of experience in each of the four types. Participants focused on thickness and absorbency, both positively and negatively, to frame their evaluations. Effectiveness and acceptability were both considered when evaluating an emollient but effectiveness was the primary driver for continued use. For some, participating in the trial had changed their knowledge and behaviour of emollients, resulting in use that was more regular and for a longer duration.

Conclusion There is no one emollient that is suitable for everyone, and parents/children prioritise different aspects of emollients. Future research could evaluate decision aids and/or tester pots of different types, which could enable clinicians and parents/children to work collaboratively to identify the best emollient for them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e390-e397
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number719
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme (reference: 15/130/07). Jonathan Banks’s time is supported by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Royal College of General Practitioners. All rights reserved.


  • Eczema
  • Emollients
  • Dermatitis, Atopic
  • Ointments
  • Pediatrics
  • Primary health care


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