Background: Topical glucocorticoids (GCs) are the mainstay of treatment for eczema, but GC phobia and fears are very common among the parents of paediatric patients. Aim: To survey the nature and extent of “fears” of GC use, and to evaluate if disease severity is associated with such fears. Methods: Patients with eczema managed in the paediatric dermatology outpatient clinic of a university hospital were recruited in this survey. Disease severity and various aspects of belief and practices of GC use were assessed with the Nottingham Eczema Severity Score and a questionnaire. Results: GC “fears” were present in two fifths of informants with non-eczematous skin disease and mild eczema, but three fifths in moderate-to-severe disease. Requests for steroid-sparing medications (such as tacrolimus or pimecrolimus) had been made in nearly 50% of cases with moderate-to-severe eczema, and many parents would wait until eczema had worsened or apply GC only as a last resort to avoid potential side effects. “Fears” were predominantly interpersonal and rarely iatrogenic in nature. Skin problems (in particular skin thinning) and adverse effects on growth were the side effects of GC of most concern. However, fewer than half of the informants had discussed their concerns with doctors.
Conclusion: Our results suggest the importance of understanding the nature and extent to which GC fears, regardless of eczema severity, are prevalent so that sound advice can be offered in a timely manner to parents and patients.