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Study Provides Eczema Relief Through Bleach Baths

April 27, 2009

Researchers suggest that adding bleach to the bath may be an effective treatment for chronic eczema.

A new study found significant improvement in 31 children with eczema who had diluted bleach baths compared with normal baths.

The improvements were also noted to show only on parts of the body submerged in the bath.

However, the treatment could be extremely dangerous and should only be done under the care of a specialist, according to experts in the UK.

Children with bad eczema suffer from chronic skin infections, most commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus, which worsen the eczema that can be difficult to treat.

Resistant MRSA infections have been known to develop in some children, while studies have shown a direct correlation between the number of bacteria on the skin and the severity of the eczema. Additional studies have shown that bacteria can cause inflammation and further weaken the skin barrier.

Patients infected with Staphylococcus aureus were randomly assigned to baths with half a cup of sodium hypochlorite per full tub or normal water baths for five to 10 minutes twice a week for three months.

During the study, patients were also prescribed a topical antibiotic ointment or dummy ointment to put into their nose – a key site for bacteria growth.

While there was no improvement in eczema on the head, neck and other areas not submerged in the bath, eczema severity in patients reduced five times as much as those on placebo.

Dr. Amy Paller, from Northwestern University in Chicago, who led the study, said doctors have long struggled with staphylococcal infections in patients with eczema.

In the past, she said they saw such rapid improvements in the children having bleach baths that they stopped the study early.

The researchers noted that the eczema kept getting better and better with the bleach baths and these baths prevented it from flaring again.

She said the study’s results suggested that bleach has antibacterial properties and decreased the number of bacteria on the skin, which often caused flare-ups.

Antiseptic baths had been used as a treatment for eczema for quite a while but the new trial is important because it highlights the benefits from reducing bacteria, according to Professor Mike Cork, head of dermatology research and a consultant at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

However, he strongly warned against parents putting bleach in their children’s bath because if used incorrectly it could cause enormous harm to a child with atopic eczema.

But he said it could lead to beneficial eczema treatment when in the hands of an expert, as the study indicates.

What’s most important, he said, was the need for children with uncontrolled eczema to receive treatment from a specialist.

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