PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With the itchy rash of eczema, skin loses water too quickly and dries out.

Many children suffer from it, and often it causes irritation.

“It’s hard to watch a child with eczema. They might be itchy to the point they are bleeding from having to scratch their skin,” said Dr. Brian Horvath from Horvath Dermatology.

It has long been thought that because children with eczema are itchy, they have a hard time falling asleep.

A new Taiwanese study challenges that idea.

Researchers noticed levels of the sleep hormone melatonin were low in kids with eczema and sleep problems. So 50 children ages 2 to 18 with eczema were given either a placebo or melatonin.

The children getting melatonin not only fell asleep 21 minutes faster, but their eczema improved.

“Melatonin is safe to use, even in young children. Even in this study children as young as one year of age were given the melatonin,” Horvath said.

The customary treatment for the itch of eczema is an antihistamine, medicines like benadryl, which can make you drowsy. But with more use, the medicine can lose its effect.

Melatonin is over the counter, chewable, and inexpensive. It’s not clear why it helped these kids. It’s possible it has anti-inflammatory effects.

“It is a very small study, just 50 children. It would be nice to see in a larger group,” Horvath said “But because it seems to be so low risk, I have no problem recommending it to people right now to try. It’s nice to see such an easy treatment that seems to be so effective.”

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