Q: My son has chronic eczema that never seems to clear. A friend mentioned something called “bleach baths” for eczema. This sounds harsh and drying, but I am willing to try about anything at this point. Are bleach baths safe?
Eczema is a skin condition that causes dry and itchy patches of skin that can often become inflamed (red) and flaky. Eczema can be caused by food or environmental allergies or as a reaction to lotions, soaps or laundry detergents.
The first step in treating eczema is eliminating aggravating elements. Start by choosing soaps and laundry detergents that are free of perfumes and dyes and formulated for sensitive skin. Avoid any underlying food or environmental allergies.
A second, and crucial, step is moisturizing the skin and protecting the body’s own moisture barrier. Baths should be limited to 10 minutes in lukewarm (not hot) water followed immediately by applying an alcohol-free moisturizer. The best moisturizers are unscented and frequently petroleum-based.
When these measures are not enough, your child’s health care provider may prescribe a topical medication, most commonly steroid ointments or creams.
Even after all these treatments, some children continue to battle frequent eczema flares. Sometimes these flares can be the result of skin chronically infected with bacteria. In these cases, bleach baths can reduce bacteria on the skin.
The dilution formula for a bleach bath is half a cup of bleach per 40 gallons of water. Bleach baths should not be done more than twice a week. The head should not be submerged in a bleach bath and the bath should be limited to five to 10 minutes. Bleach baths should be used in addition to, not in place of, standard therapies.