Special proteins found in milk are being investigated by scientists to see if they can help relieve eczema.
Many people with eczema shun milk and other dairy products as they can often make the debilitating skin condition worse.
But a study underway in Sydney is investigating whether two specific milk proteins can actually help relieve the dry, itchy skin symptoms associated with eczema.
The pilot study involves giving adults with eczema a daily supplement containing the whey proteins lactoferrin and immunoglobulin.
It was devised after a separate study examining the effects of the two proteins on people with colds and flu found that participants who had eczema noticed improvements in their skin.
One of the scientists involved in the study, Griffith University researcher Nic West, says the test now is to determine whether the improvements in eczema symptoms witnessed in the cold and flu probe were coincidental or linked to the proteins.
"Anecdotal observations from people with a range of skin conditions say it helps with the severity of the symptoms they are experiencing," Dr West told AAP.
"There is something going on. Whether we can actually determine it in a study is going to be interesting."
It is estimated that between 15 and 20 per cent of school children and up to 10 per cent of adults have eczema.
With no cure available, people with eczema often turn to cortisone creams and make dietary changes to help ease the itch.
Some people with eczema can suffer flare ups after drinking milk because they have an allergic reaction to the protein lactoglobulin.
The two proteins being used in the supplement for the pilot study help bolster the body's immune system.
Lactoferrin acts as a barrier to foreign bodies trying to enter the body, while immunoglobulins can remove them.
Dr West said it is possible that there is some sort of aberration in the normal function of those proteins in people with eczema.
He expects results from the pilot study in February and hopes it will lead to a full scale clinical trial involving thousands of people with eczema across Australia and overseas.
The study is being run by the St George Dermatology and Skin Cancer Clinic in Sydney, along with Griffith University and Sydney University's Centenary Institute.
Forty five adults aged 18 to 55 and with mild to moderate eczema are needed to take part in the 12-week study. As part of the study participants receive free appointments with a dermatology specialist.