Rub a dub dub … did you just say bleach in the tub?

This article is sponsored by PM Pediatrics

“Maybe try twice weekly bleach baths to help his chronic eczema.”

Ummmmmm, what.

Medicine is shocking sometimes. Ok, a lot. We see and do things that run the spectrum from “kind of unusual” to “completely outrageous. “I’m coming clean that suggesting “bleach baths” in any format is somewhere on that continuum for me.

But here’s the thing— there are lots of kids who have chronic eczema, a skin condition that makes them red, scaly and itchy. Managing it is really a way of life—avoiding all kinds of triggers and having a skin care routine that is regimented and tight—using steroid creams, petroleum jelly, specific cleansers, and even then the symptoms often range from vaguely annoying to requiring hospital admission. This condition causes breaks in that important skin barrier that separates our delicate insides from the germs of the outside world. In folks with eczema, that barrier is tenuous at best, and they are often fraught with infections that invade the skin layers.

So one additional treatment, combined with all the creams and soaps and avoidance of allergic triggers, is to bathe in a bathtub filled with warm water and a bit of household bleach twice a week.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?

For 10 minutes. From the neck down. Then rinse off with clean water, pat the skin dry and proceed with THE REST of the creams, etc. The theoretical science here is that the bleach can help to decrease the number of bacteria that live on the skin and thus potentially decrease infection in patients with chronic eczema.

So anyway, yep, I wrote this. Take a bleach bath. For a full standard bathtub add half a cup of household (NOT COMMERCIAL) bleach; for half a tub of water add a quarter of a cup, and for a baby add a teaspoon per gallon of water used.

Additional public service announcement— parents, please supervise your kids CLOSELY during bath time. No one wants any additional emergencies.

Clearly, you’ll need to discuss this with your doctor first… but there are some studies that indicate that there may be some benefit in having fewer skin infections in people with chronic eczema. The studies examined bleach baths as well as an antibacterial ointment placed just inside the nose to help decrease skin germs all around. Study links are included below for all you academics out there.

I’d love to hear from anyone who does this routinely. Yes or No? What’s your experience been? Tell me.

For more about bleach bath studies, visit…
National Eczema Association
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Dermatology
PubMed Abstract
PubMed Abstract

Christina Johns, MD, MEd is the Senior Medical Advisor at PM Pediatrics. As a parent, pediatrician and pediatric emergency physician with a master’s in education, she shares her own expertise, plus the wealth of knowledge from our highly skilled staff, with patients and families everywhere.

Follow Dr. Christina online for everyday health tips, insightful articles and more.

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