Do you dare to let your eczema child try a bleach bath?

A very cute winnie the pooh bathtub (from summerinfant.com)

Published in May 2009 Pediatrics Journal was the findings of a bleach bath study conducted on 31 children, aged 6 to 17 months, with moderate to severe eczema. The children had staph (see this post to learn about staph), which is a very resilient bacteria on the skin that can cause infection. Half the children were soaked 5 to 10 minutes in a bleach bath twice a week, while the other half in a placebo bath. The children who were soaked in the bleach bath showed decreased severity of eczema within 3 months. The diluted bleach bath act like a antiseptic, which can remove the bacteria. Before trying this on your own, do check with your baby’s doctor and also note the following:

1.      Dilute the bleach and don’t apply bleach directly onto skin. Bleach is an irritant to the skin, so do check with your doctor on the preparation of the bath. For the above study, it’s ¼ cup bleach diluted with 40 gallons of lukewarm water. The concentration of sodium hydrochlorite in the bleach should not be more than 6%. Learn more about bleach bath and its effect on skin pH in interview with dermatologist Cheryl Lee MD

2.      Rinse off the bleach, pat dry and moisturize generously within 3 minutes of the bath.

3.      The neck and head was not in the water for the study. It was published online though that the doctor of this study, Dr Amy Paller, suggested closing eyes and submerging head into the bath to clear the bacteria. I’m not sure about this as my baby Marcie keeps drinking her current oatmeal bath!

4.      A 14-day oral antibiotic was given at the same time during the study, and moisturizing too. This meant that bleach bath is not a standalone treatment (in fact, bleach can dry/irritate the skin, so do dilute and moisturize a lot).

5.      Bleach bath should not be used for cracked skin, and consult your doctor first (I know my baby’s doctor recommended swimming and octenisan (2018 update: a more moisturizing antiseptic wash alternative chlorhexidine), which also serve to remove the staph bacteria).

2014 update: Read my interview with Dr Cheryl Lee on eczema skin and pH (including a Q&A on bleach bath)

2015 update: Read my interview with Dr Lawrence F Eichenfield (in collaboration with American Academy of Dermatology) on eczema bleach bath

My take is I don’t dare and won’t try bleach bath, since chlorhexidine (antiseptic) had worked for my baby. Swimming had also worked for her, even when we only brought her weekly (as opposed to her doctor’s advice to bring her 3 times/week). Do you dare to try the bleach bath on your child? If you have, do let us know how it went, thanks!

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Last update was on: 16 June, 2018 11:15 pm
9 Comments
  1. […] The main purpose of bleach bath is to kill the staph bacteria that often colonizes eczema skin. I’ve the privilege of interviewing dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee who is an early proponent of bleach bath (more here). Bleach bath is to be limited to no more than 3 times a week. A study on bleach bath here. […]

  2. My 7yr old son has eczema as well. Has had it since he was born. Mostly on his legs,bottom, and backs of both arms. We have tried the bleach bath as it was prescribed by our doc just within this last year. it really calms his skin down when the flare-ups are at their worse. He also gave trimethacone cream to seize the itching.. hydrocortisone cream made the eczema rash become raised and irritated. I am here trying to find more I can do to help him not be itchy all the time.

    • Hi Dari!

      Thanks for sharing that bleach bath works for your son! I’m trying to stop the itching too 🙂 Swimming helps for my girl :))

      Take care!
      Mei

  3. […] I’ve written on showering my child and on bleach bath, but I know when it comes to bathing a newborn, there are many differing opinions on how often and […]

  4. […] tips by Dr Bridgett, here on steroid potency, here on finger tip units, here on wet-wrap and here on bleach […]

  5. […] bath has been shown to be effective in reducing Staph bacteria, more in this post. How does the bleach act against the bacteria on the skin? Kill it and it’s drained with the […]

  6. What are the most effective ways to treat eczema?…

    Dr Emily Altman has given a comprehensive overview of how to manage the eczema. The other skincare/ eczema routine that I normally do for my eczema child is cleaning her skin with chlorhexidine. This is upon advance of my baby’s doctor, Prof Hugo, and…

  7. A reply from Dr Jennifer Shu on bleach bath on CNNHealth
    http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/17/will-a-bleach-bath-help-a-childs-eczema/

    Mentioned chlorine fumes may affect those with asthma

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