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Understanding health evidence in COVID-19 times

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 22:02

We all wish we were at least a little scientifically literate, so we can become competent enough to spot what is evidence based. Whether it's a chat over the fence with a neighbour or something you spot on social media, it's hard to know how to assess the quality of health claims. For many people  accessing health claims isn't something they've considered to do before or needed to do until now. 

The World Health Organization defines an infodemic as “overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that occurs during an epidemic. It can lead to confusion and ultimately mistrust in governments and public health response”. This has been a particular challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, with misinformation being shared often, and fast.

Listed below is online learning that is freely available to anyone who is interested in an introduction to evidence-based healthcare, Cochrane evidence, and how to use it. A great resource for yourself and to pass on to family and friends! 

Cochrane Evidence Essentials
What? Four  free learning modules that give an introduction to Evidence Based Medicine, clinical trials and Cochrane evidence.
How? You will be guided through four learning modules by Eleni, a fictional character who is looking for reliable evidence to help her make informed choices. By following Eleni’s story, users can explore topics that include Evidence Based Medicine, clinical trials, systematic reviews, and how to find, understand and use Cochrane evidence. The learning is engaging and includes contributions from a wide range of subject matter experts, quizzes, short films, audio, interviews, interactive graphics, and links to further information for people who wish to learn more.
Designed for?  Designed for patients, care givers, family members (anyone interested in health evidence) policy makers and members of the healthcare team. 

Evidently Cochrane
Blog posts usually featuring new or updated Cochrane reviews on a health topic that aim to make Cochrane evidence really accessible and to encourage discussion about it. The blogs often include a patient or practitioner perspective. Run by Cochrane UK. 
How? Weekly blog posts and  special series with multiple blogs, and other resources, on one topic.
Designed for? Designed for patients, carers, healthcare professionals and clinical support staff and health researchers.

iHeath Facts
Quickly and easily check the reliability of a health claim circulated by social media. Supported by Cochrane Ireland. 
Submitted health claims are researched and checked by a panel to provide robust, unbiased response. 
Design for? 
The general public.

Students 4 Best Evidence (also available in Spanish)
What? A website pulling together resources on Evidence-Based Healthcare into one interactive space. 
How? Run by a global  network of students, from school age to university, who are interested in learning more about evidence-based health care.
Designed for? For those training to be a doctor, nurse or other health professional, or school student thinking about studying medicine or doing health research. 

Other related resources:

Friday, February 19, 2021

Prof Jimmy Volmink recognised with honorary doctorate for ‘individuals of exceptional distinction’

Thu, 02/04/2021 - 19:30

Professor James "Jimmy" Volmink, the founding Director of the South African Cochrane Centre, was recognized for his devotion to evidence-based medicine with an  honorary doctorate at the Ku Leuven University. 

Learn more about why he called the 'father of evidence-based medicine in Africa' and his strong devotion to Cochrane:

Jimmy reflects on reflects his personal and professional journey in this 'Recommended Dose' podcast. His current role at Stellenbosch - one of South Africa’s most pre-eminent universities - is itself a striking testament to the kind of change he has witnessed, worked towards and continues to advocate for. When he applied to study at Stellenbosch back in the 1980s, Jimmy was turned down because he was black. Almost four decades later, he holds the prestigious position of Dean of Medicine and Health Sciences at that very same university. Here, Jimmy shares with Ray how this and many other formative experiences have led to his lifelong, unwavering commitment to support and mentor new generations of students in South Africa and to keep on 'banging the drum about inequality' to affect real change.

Jimmy expresses his gratitude for the honorary doctorate and shares his thoughts on COVID-19:

Please join us in offering Professor Volmink congratulations on this honour and best wishes for the future.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Cochrane UK and Cochrane Ireland host online event; 'Virtually Cochrane', 20-22 April 2021

Thu, 02/04/2021 - 15:17

Registration now open for ‘Virtually Cochrane’, an online event hosted by Cochrane UK and Cochrane Ireland: 20-22 April 2021.

Registration is now open for ‘Virtually Cochrane’, an online event for all those involved with, or interested in, planning, doing, sharing and using health and healthcare evidence.

Everyone is welcome to register for a series of sessions on the theme of ‘navigating evidence and uncertainty’. Join live sessions or watch content on-demand. There will also be opportunities for networking, and access to a projects hub.

Patients, carers, patient advocates, and members of the public can register for free.

You can view the programme here and register here

Get in touch:

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Cochrane Living Systematic Reviews vs COVID-19: Highlighting the latest information

Wed, 01/27/2021 - 15:53

By September 2020, there were more than 3000 COVID-19 trials registered and the number keeps growing. Systematic reviews compile all the relevant evidence about a topic to help inform decisions. However, where new research is being completed quickly, like COVID-19, a way of regularly updating systematic reviews with new studies is needed, so that all the evidence can be used to support urgent decisions.

Cochrane has been developing ‘living systematic reviews’. These are evidence reviews in topics where a lot of research is emerging quickly. Living systematic reviews search for evidence much more regularly than standard reviews and incorporate relevant new evidence as it becomes available. Living reviews are important so that decision makers such as policymakers can be sure they have the latest evidence when making decisions.

Learn more about this work and how Cochrane has adapted to the changing situation and availability of evidence in this short case story.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Virtual Methods Symposium: Advanced Methods and Innovative Technologies for Evidence Synthesis

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 20:21

The US Agency for Healthcare Research Quality has prioritized a crucial need to disseminate health research findings. As such, a grant was awarded to Dr. Tianjing Li to convene a conference on “Innovative Methods Research to Increase the Utility of Systematic Reviews.”  Dr. Li has met this challenge by bringing together some of the world’s top methods researchers to present their work and help disseminate how systematic reviews can improve the quality, effectiveness, and appropriateness of healthcare by synthesizing the evidence and facilitating the translation of research findings. Due to COVID19, this in-person event has been moved to a three-session, virtual format -  that is open to all and free! 

Coordinated by the Cochrane US Network and hosted by University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus, this exciting conference program and speaker line-up aims to maximize dissemination, encourage implementation, and increase knowledge. The interactions at the symposium will include opportunities to engage, discuss, and share on topics including:

  • theoretical and practical methodological advances
  • empirical exploration of methods
  • assessment of feasibility and comparison of alternatives
  • implementation of novel approaches in practice
  • dissemination and implementation of complex assessment and analytical methods

This symposium will provide a unique opportunity to bring methodologists and review authors from Evidence-based Practice Center and Cochrane together. It is aimed at professionals with backgrounds or interest in advancing and disseminating research synthesis methods,  as well as young investigators; thus fostering collaboration among various disciplines and specialties while also developing the next generation of methodologists.

Session 1: Complexity in Systematic Reviews
February 16th 1:30pm – 4pm EST (Check in your timezone)
Session 2: Automation for Systematic Reviews
February 23rd 2pm – 4pm EST (Check in your time zone)

Session 3: Synthesizing Harms of Interventions
March 8th 11am – 1pm EST (Check in your time zone)

These sessions are free to all participants - register for one or all three sessions!  

Friday, January 22, 2021

Treatment for breast engorgement in breastfeeding

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 16:11
Friday, January 22, 2021

Cochrane ENT vs COVID-19 - Providing targeted evidence for clinicians

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 15:40

Healthcare workers supporting people with ear, nose and throat (ENT) issues needed to know how COVID-19 may impact on their care and how to protect themselves from infection when providing this. Cochrane ENT wanted to use their team’s skills to curate and deliver targeted evidence to support healthcare professionals and patients.

Cochrane ENT drew together an online repository of guidance and evidence about caring for people with ear, nose, throat, hearing and balance problems during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also worked with Cochrane Oral Health to fast-track three systematic reviews, are undertaking living systematic reviews, updated regularly, about ways to prevent and treat this loss of smell. They are also working with two patient groups who are advising them on the issues that matter to patients.

In this short case story, learn more about how Cochrane ENT delivered targeted COVID-19 evidence to support healthcare professionals and patients and what they learned in the process.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Cochrane passes 100,000 members and supporters

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 20:22

In mid-December 2020, Cochrane passed the milestone of 100,000 members and supporters! We are so proud of our collaborative, diverse, global community, made up of people from 225 countries. Hear from some of our contributors by exploring #MyCochraneStory.

Our 100,000th supporter to engage with Cochrane was Priscila Verduzco, pictured below. Priscila is an ophthalmologist from Mexico City. She is currently completing a master's degree in medical sciences at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. She joined Cochrane to encourage and assist with research, training, and dissemination of evidence in vision and ophthalmology. To commemorate this milestone, we have sent some geek chic Cochrane merch to Priscila in Mexico, along with a certificate.

Priscila joins Cochrane as we have expanded our information on how to get involved and Join Cochrane. Included in these new pages are:

The pages also showcase Cochrane's Membership badges, which are available to download from the Cochrane Account portal for all of our members and where supporters can see their progress toward Cochrane Membership.

We hope you will join us – join in – and make a difference. 

Explore how to Join Cochrane

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Cochrane expands its reach with the launch of a new Network across China

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 11:47

Today Cochrane announces the official launch of a new network of institutions committed to promote evidence-based health care practice and policy decision making in China.

Made up of some of the country’s leading organizations in the research and practice of evidence-based medicine field, the Cochrane China Network will work with clinicians, professional associations, policymakers, patients, healthcare provider organizations and the media to promote the wider dissemination and use of Cochrane evidence in China; as well as supporting and training Chinese systematic review authors of Cochrane Reviews.

The Cochrane China Network is initially made up of the existing Cochrane China Centre based at the West China Hospital, Sichuan University; the Cochrane Hong Kong Affiliate based at the Nethersole School of Nursing, Chinese University of Hong Kong; plus seven other Affiliates including;

  • Centre for Evidence-based Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Affiliate of the Cochrane China Network
  • Centre for Evidence-based Medicine and Clinical Research, Peking University, Affiliate of the Cochrane China Network
  • Department of Evidence-based Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Second School of Clinical Medicine, Wuhan University, Affiliate of the Cochrane China Network
  • Evidence-based Medicine Centre, Fudan University, Affiliate of the Cochrane China Network
  • Institute of Health Data Science, Lanzhou University, Affiliate of the Cochrane China Network
  • School of Public Health and Management, Chongqing Medical University, Affiliate of the Cochrane China Network
  • Evidence-based Medicine Centre, University of Nottingham Ningbo, Affiliate of the Cochrane China Network

Mark Wilson, Cochrane’s Chief Executive Officer, said of the Network’s launch: “I am delighted to see these prestigious institutions and leaders join together to form an important force for evidence-based health care in China. Each Affiliate comes with its own thematic area of expertise and focus and many of these researchers and clinicians are leaders in the field. I am excited by the expertise, innovation and knowledge they will bring to Cochrane’s mission of delivering trusted evidence into health policy and clinical decision-making. I hope that this new – already extensive – Network will grow further and welcome many more partners in years to come.”

Tracey Howe, Co-Chair of the Cochrane Governing Board adds: “Over the past two decades Cochrane has taken a lead in advocating for evidence-informed healthcare, and now has Cochrane Groups in 43 countries, and more than 100,000 members worldwide. This new Network will represent Cochrane in China, supporting evidence-based practice and policy making, working towards our shared vision for better health.”

The Cochrane China Network, co-chairs explain, “The Network is made up of leading institutions with existing expertise in research and practice, from across eight cities in the country. The network members will work collaboratively to disseminate trusted evidence and champion the use and rigor of evidence, ultimately to enhance the health and well-being of citizens. Evidence based healthcare is a relatively new concept in China, so the inception of this Network is a huge milestone in building up understanding of this topic.”

The China Network is co-chaired by:

  • Janita Pak Chun CHAU Professor, The Nethersole School of Nursing; Assistant Dean (Alumni Affairs), Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China; Co-Director, Cochrane Hong Kong
  • Yan HU Dean and Professor, School of Nursing, Fudan University, Shanghai, China; Director, Fudan University Centre of Evidence-Based Nursing and Shanghai Evidence-Based Nursing Centre
  • Yinghui JIN Associate Professor, Centre for Evidence-Based and Translational Medicine, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, China

The formal launch of the new Cochrane China Network was held virtually on January 21 and 22, 2021.

The Cochrane China Network is part of Cochrane, a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers and people interested in health. Cochrane produces reviews which study all of the best available evidence generated through research and make it easier to inform decisions about health. Cochrane is a not-for profit organization working to produce credible, accessible health information that is free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest. Cochrane’s work is recognized as representing an international gold standard for high quality, trusted information.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Cochrane Gynaecology and Fertility vs COVID-19: Collaborating to produce the ‘PregCov-19’ living systematic review

Tue, 01/19/2021 - 16:32

COVID-19 is especially dangerous for at risk populations, such as pregnant women. It is critical to determine how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and their babies. A regular systematic review methodology is not sufficient to synthesise the overwhelming amount of evidence produced daily worldwide. Cochrane Gynaecology and Fertility needed to carry out a living systematic review, meaning the review would be continually updated, incorporating new studies as they become available.

The ‘PregCov-19’ living systematic review project commenced at the beginning of April 2020, and latest results from the living systematic review were published in September 2020. Cochrane Gynaecology and Fertility created a webpage on the University of Birmingham website to highlight the project and make it easily accessible to pregnant women, researchers, and clinicians worldwide.

Learn more about this work and what Cochrane Gynaecology and Fertility learned in the process by reading this short case story.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Launching Cochrane methods guidance in Spanish and Japanese

Tue, 01/19/2021 - 15:51

Cochrane is delighted to launch Spanish and Japanese translations of MECIR (Methodological Expectations for Cochrane Intervention Reviews) from Cochrane Iberoamerica and Cochrane Japan, respectively.

These are the first translations of Cochrane’s methods guidance since the launch of version 6 of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (see this Cochrane Editorial for more details about the Handbook’s launch). This is an important milestone in supporting the engagement of people with different native languages in Cochrane Reviews.

Access the translated versions of MECIR in Spanish and in Japanese. 

Ensuring that Cochrane Reviews represent the highest possible quality is critical if they are to inform decision making in clinical practice and health policy. MECIR are Standards that guide the conduct and reporting of Cochrane Intervention Reviews; they are essential the ‘how-to’ guide for Cochrane Reviews and are drawn from the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. All Standards are tagged as ‘mandatory’ or ‘highly desirable’. Mandatory Standards should always be met unless an appropriate justification for not doing so can be provided. Highly desirable Standards should generally be implemented but justification for not implementing them is unnecessary. 

The development of MECIR has been a collaborative effort over the years, involving review authors, editors and methodologists from all corners of our community. We are thrilled that this collaboration now includes Cochrane Translation Teams.

Dr Karla Soares-Weiser, Cochrane’s Editor-in-Chief, said: “Cochrane has published more than 33,900 translations of Cochrane Review plain language summaries and/or abstracts as of December 2020. Even though Cochrane Reviews are produced in English, having methods guidance for our Reviews available in non-English languages can help increase the diversity and inclusivity of author teams, especially for Reviews that need expertise from particular settings or countries where English is not a native language. The translation of Cochrane methods guidance is also important for review and methods training in non-English speaking countries as it reduces the linguistic barrier for researchers getting involved.”

Dr Xavier Bonfill Cosp, Director of Cochrane Iberoamerica, said: “The Spanish version of MECIR is a useful tool for Spanish-speaking authors and will contribute that high-quality reviews are conducted in the global multilingual collaboration that is Cochrane. At Cochrane Iberoamerica we are happy to have been part of this translation effort and we look forward to increasing its accessibility in the future through more interactive on-line platforms.”

Dr Norio Watanabe, Director of Cochrane Japan, said: “I am very happy and honored to publish the Japanese version of the MECIR, because I believe this can contribute not only to Cochrane review authors but also to anyone who thinks of interpreting results from systematic reviews in Japan. We are now planning to translate the latest version of Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions as a next step.”

Post written by Judith Deppe (Multi-language Programme Manager, Cochrane) and Ella Flemyng (Methods Implementation Manager, Cochrane)

Additional resources:

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Cochrane statement to the 148th WHO Executive Board meeting on strengthening global emergency preparedness

Tue, 01/19/2021 - 13:58

The World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board is meeting virtually this week (18-26 January).

The Executive Board, which is made up of 34 elected members from WHO Member States, is responsible for implementing the decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly (WHO’s decision-making body) and to advise and facilitate WHO’s work.

Our statement highlights the ongoing contributions of the Cochrane community to the international COVID-19 response, and pledges support for WHO’s efforts in preparing for future health emergencies.

The full statement is below:
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the critical importance of timely evidence-informed global health policy. Governments, healthcare professionals and researchers worldwide continue to seek answers to questions related to the treatment of patients, and how best to protect populations.

Cochrane is a global leader in the production of high-quality synthesized evidence to inform health decision making. Over the last year, we have worked closely with WHO by producing rapid reviews to answer its priority questions related to COVID-19. We published 25 reviews on priority questions related to clinical management of patients with COVID-19 and public health measures to prevent transmission of disease; these reviews are being regularly updated as new evidence becomes available. To help make sense of the large volume of research being published every day, we also launched and are maintaining one of the largest and most sophisticated registries of COVID-19 studies a living synthesis of COVID-19 study results and Cochrane Groups around the world are working within their settings to provide evidence for decision making.

While many countries are currently experiencing the highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, vaccines are starting to become available – giving the world hope for the future. As we begin to look ahead to beyond COVID-19, we should really learn from this pandemic and think about what preparedness for future health emergencies should involve, which surveillance systems are needed and what the research community can do to support WHO and Member States in preparing for this.

Cochrane is therefore committed to not only support WHO with its norms, standards and guidelines work with evidence synthesis throughout the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to contribute towards ensuring global preparedness for future pandemics and health emergencies.

  • The 148th session of the Executive Board take place on 18-26 January 2021. You will be able follow proceedings on this webcast
Tuesday, January 19, 2021

#MyCochrane merchandise

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 21:41

Embrace your geek chic and love for evidence-based healthcare with Cochrane merch!

Over the years, branded items have been printed out to celebrate Colloquia and special events and milestones. Many take pride in wearing and using something branded with the global organization they are a part of or use - and it was time for a refresh! 

The Cochrane Store brings designs that celebrate evidence-based healthcare, take pride in the rigger and quality of systematic reviews, and show the world you are a supporter of high-quality Cochrane evidence! All money from sales are reinvested in helping people get involved in Cochrane. 

The initial designs added to the store were created by science illustrator Science Scribbles. Dr. Lauren Callender says, "For this project, I particularly wanted to draw attention to the fact that Cochrane is very highly regarded by the scientific community. I hope I was able to visually depict this and that people will really love the designs!"

If you're looking for something with just the logo or an item with a bit of humour, we have mugs, t-shirts and totes that cover that! These are great for those that want to share their pride in using Cochrane reviews or their involvement in creating them. 

 We love seeing your Cochrane items 'out in the wild'! Share your photos using the hashtag #MyCochrane and to be sure we see them and give you credit email your picture to and let us know your Instagram or Twitter handle so we can give you credit! 


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Eight ways to quit smoking in 2021: video talks through the Cochrane evidence

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 19:25

Stopping smoking brings enormous health benefits, but can be very challenging.

In this talk, Cochrane author and editor Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce talks through Cochrane evidence on the best and most common ways to quit smoking.

This talk is based off an article in The Conversation co-authored by Jamie and Dr Nicola Lindson, Cochrane author and managing editor of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group. The talk was hosted by Oxford at Home, the University of Oxford’s weekly programme of live knowledge sharing online ‘tutorials.’

Monday, January 18, 2021

Cochrane Ireland vs COVID-19: ‘fact checking’ claims in a pandemic

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 16:13

In March 2020, in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cochrane Ireland, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and the HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN), worked with partners to set up the Emergency Evidence Response Service at NUI Galway. As part of this initiative, they created iHealthFacts, an online resource where members of the public can check the current evidence for health claims.

iHealthFacts helps the public to use evidence to make informed decisions about their own health while also providing a platform where members of the public can submit health claim questions to be ‘fact checked’ by a team of evidence researchers.

Learn more about iHealthFacts, including the success of this initiative and what this collaborative team has learnt in the process, in this  short case story.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Help Cochrane improve the way we share evidence

Fri, 01/15/2021 - 20:30

The past year has shown how important good quality evidence is. Here at Cochrane, we create short simple summaries of our reviews called Plain Language Summaries. These summaries are meant to be accessible by people around the world, so they can use them to make health care decisions. We would like your opinion on how to make these summaries easier to understand.

We are looking for volunteers to read two summaries and tell us if they are easy to understand. We are seeking feedback from everyone, especially members of the public, healthcare professionals, journalists and people who influence policy. Please feel free to share this message with anyone who might help.

No experience is needed. We will email you a short document and ask you to send us your feedback within two weeks. It will take 30-45 minutes.

The world needs good evidence now more than ever before. With your help we can make evidence more understandable, helping people make informed decisions for better health.

To take part, click here to submit your email by 23 February 2021.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Cochrane Neuromuscular Group seeks new Co-ordinating Editor – flexible location

Fri, 01/15/2021 - 15:03

The Cochrane Neuromuscular Group is looking to appoint one or more new Co-ordinating Editor(s) to provide leadership of the Group. The Cochrane Neuromuscular Group is part of the Cochrane Mental Health and Neuroscience Network. This is an important opportunity to lead and shape the future development of a strategically important area of Cochrane’s healthcare evidence coverage. The Neuromuscular Group’s portfolio of reviews includes 57 active reviews and 22 protocols.

Applications are welcomed from individuals based in any country. We invite applications from within existing Cochrane Groups and beyond, and also individuals interested in a job share. Applicants should be aware of the following requirements:

1. The Co-ordinating Editor(s) must have:

  • Experience of authoring Cochrane or alternative high quality systematic reviews
  • Clinical expertise and standing in the field of neuromuscular diseases.
  • Methodology expertise in the field of evidence synthesis, including risk of bias and GRADE assessments

2. The following attributes are highly desirable

  • Experience of editing Cochrane reviews or alternative high quality systematic reviews
  • Advanced methodological skills and knowledge

3. The new Co-ordinating Editor(s) must work within the terms of the Collaboration Agreement that defines the responsibilities of Cochrane and the Cochrane Review Group.  

4. The new Co-ordinating Editor(s) must actively engage with the Cochrane Mental Health and Neuroscience Network and adhere to the Network’s strategic plan.

Potential applicants should familiarise themselves with Cochrane’s commercial sponsorship and conflict of interest policy.

Individuals who are interested to explore this opportunity are welcome to speak with Robert Boyle (, Rosaline Quinlivan ( or Michael Lunn (

  • To apply, please send a cover letter which includes a summary of your experience and skills in relation to the bullet points above, and a Curriculum Vitae to Robert Boyle (
  • For further information, please review the full role description.
  • Deadline for applications: Monday 1st February 2021 (12 midnight GMT)
  • Details of interviews will be provided in the due course
Friday, January 15, 2021 Category: Jobs

Does moisturising baby skin prevent eczema or food allergies?

Thu, 01/14/2021 - 14:59

Skin care treatments in babies, such as using moisturisers on the skin during the first year of life, probably do not stop them from developing eczema, and probably increase the chance of skin infection.

The authors are uncertain how skin care treatments might affect the chances of developing a food allergy. We need evidence from well-conducted studies to determine effects of skin care on food allergies in babies.

What are allergies?
An immune response is how the body recognises and defends itself against substances that appear harmful. An allergy is a reaction of the body's immune system to a particular food or substance (an allergen) that is usually harmless. Different allergies affect different parts of the body, and their effects can be mild or serious.

Food allergies and eczema
Eczema is a common skin allergy that causes dry, itchy, cracked skin. Eczema is common in children, often developing before their first birthday. It is sometimes a long-lasting condition, but it may improve or clear as a child gets older.

Allergies to food can cause itching in the mouth, a raised itchy red rash, swelling of the face, stomach symptoms or difficulty breathing. They usually happen within 2 hours after a food is eaten.

People with food allergies often have other allergic conditions, such as asthma, hay fever, and eczema.

As review authors we wanted to learn how skin care affects the risk of a baby developing eczema or food allergies. Skin care treatments included:

  • putting moisturisers on a baby's skin;
  • bathing babies with water containing moisturisers or moisturising oils;
  • advising parents to use less soap, or to bathe their child less often; and
  • using water softeners.

We also wanted to know if these skin care treatments cause any unwanted effects.

What did we do?
The authors searched for studies of different types of skin care for healthy babies (aged up to one year) with no previous food allergy, eczema, or other skin condition.

Search date: we included evidence published up to 23 July 2020.

They were interested in studies that reported:

  • how many children developed eczema, or food allergy, by age one to three years;
  • how severe the eczema was (assessed by a researcher and by parents);
  • how long it took for eczema to develop;
  • parents' reports of immediate (under two hours) reactions to a food allergen;
  • how many children developed sensitivity to a particular food allergen; and
  • any unwanted effects.

The authors assessed the strengths and weaknesses of each study to determine how reliable the results might be. They then combined the results of all relevant studies and looked at overall effects.  

Author Dr Maeve Kelleher, Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Allergy, Imperial College London explains, “Lots of babies get eczema, which can be very itchy and irritating for them. Babies with eczema are also more likely to have food allergy, hayfever or asthma. This project put together many studies conducted around the world, assessing if eczema could be prevented by putting moisturiser on babies skin from the first few days after they are born. Prior to this project, some studies have reported you could prevent eczema with daily application of a moisturiser. We looked at the results of over 3000 infants, from seven studies, and we can now say that daily moisturising of a babies skin cannot prevent a baby developing eczema and can even cause some increased skin infections.
There is strong link between eczema and food allergy, but unfortunately there were not enough babies in this study to tell us whether putting on a daily moisturisers changes the risk of food allergy."

The authors found 33 studies involving 25,827 babies. These studies took place in Europe, Australia, Japan, and the USA, most often at children's hospitals. Skin care was compared against no skin care or care as usual (standard care). Treatment and follow-up times ranged from 24 hours to two years. Many studies (13) tested the use of moisturisers; others mainly tested the use of bathing and cleansing products and how often they were used.

The authors then combined the results of 11 studies; eight included babies thought to have high risk of developing eczema or a food allergy.

The review authors are moderately confident in the results for developing eczema and the time needed to develop eczema. These results might change if more evidence becomes available. They are less confident about the results for food allergy or sensitivity, which are based on small numbers of studies with widely varied results. These results are likely to change when more evidence is available. Our confidence in our findings for skin infections is moderate but is low for stinging or allergic reactions and slipping.

Monday, February 8, 2021