Bleach Baths: What on earth is going on with eczema treatments?
If you have a baby or small child with eczema, you may have been given the very strange advice to give them a bleach bath for eczema. But can bleach baths help eczema? Lets find out.
It sounds very odd I know, and kind of like the last thing you should be doing for a tiny baby with sensitive skin, but in fact, the science behind it is very sound.
Let’s have a look into this in a bit more detail.
What is a bleach bath?
A bleach bath is a bath that has a very diluted amount of bleach in it.
You can use regular household bleach, such as White King, and dilute it in a bath for people suffering from eczema. Bleach baths have apparently been recommended by doctors and skin specialists for years and are quite effective at treating the condition.
Primarily the bleach kills the bacteria on the inflamed skin and reduces the chances of infection. In doing so it reduces the severity of the condition and helps any flare-up to pass sooner.
The dilution that you use makes the water no stronger than that in a chlorinated swimming pool, so while dousing your baby with bleach seems weird, it is no weirder than putting them in a pool.
Why is infection bad?
Eczema, when just on the surface is painful, hot and itchy, but not particularly harmful to your child. It’s just very annoying and uncomfortable for them.
But if the wounds get infected, this is where trouble sets in. The wounds can’t heal, and the infection can make your child very sick.
How to take a bleach bath for treating eczema?
For every 10 liters of water in the bath, you add 12ml of liquid bleach. You can also add bath oil (I use Hamilton’s) to help moisturize the skin, but this is not necessary.
As always with an eczema bath, you should not have the water hot, just lukewarm. When running it, it helps to test the temperature with your wrist rather than your hand, as your hand can tolerate hotter temperatures more easily.
Use standard household bleach, DO NOT USE COMMERCIAL STRENGTH BLEACH!
Dilute the bleach in the bath before putting your eczema person in the water. Let them soak for around ten minutes, but not submerge their face or head under the water. It is safe to wash the face and scalp with the water, however, you just want to keep it out of little eyes.
Do not rinse the skin after the bath. You may want to use old towels or ones that are already white to dry.
If your baby has been prescribed a steroid cream, you can put this straight on the skin at this point as you would after any bath. Put a good thick eczema-approved moisturizer all over the skin. We use two types of Diprobase and Wild Naturals when they were younger.
You can do this daily if needed.
Won’t it sting my child?
It shouldn’t sting your child or irritate them, but a few people will get this reaction. Some children will feel a stinging sensation from the bath solution, in which case discontinue this practice.
Because eczema is so subjective, some people with it don’t react well to the bleach bath, but this is the same as with any product or even just water by itself.
It won’t be burning them or damaging them, just irritating. If they feel stinging, rinse off in fresh water and put moisturizer on as usual.
Bath times are so important to aid a good nights sleep, Read our blog about ECZEMA SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Is a bleach bath safe for babies?
Yes, the bleach bath eczema is safe for babies. A baby bath will hold around 15 litres of water, so put no more than 18ml of bleach in their bath. Dilute the bleach in the water and mix before putting your baby into the water, and make sure that the temperature is lukewarm.
As you always should when giving a baby a bath, have everything at hand and completely ready to go before you bring your baby in.
Can Bleach Baths Help Cradle Cap?
If your baby has crusts over his scalp, the bleach bath can be used to remove them and get rid of any infection in the wounds. If your baby’s cradle cap starts to smell then it may be becoming infected, and a bleach bath could be a very good idea.
Soften the crusts by splashing on the water or soak a cloth in the bleach water and then hold this over your baby’s scalp to loosen them. The skin may look a bit red and raw underneath, but it can be good for the antiseptic effects of the bleach water to get to this skin.
My son as a baby hated having this done, but removing the crusts is essential for getting rid of bacteria and exposing the raw skin so that topical creams can get in and do their good work.
Mum to eczema babies: my own experience with bleach bathing
I remember distinctly the first time a bleach bath eczema was suggested for my then six-month-old, and I remember how shocked I was.
When you find out that your child has eczema, you get told all of the things your baby has to avoid.
This is very sensitive skin and needs to be treated so carefully. Even products designed specifically for a tiny newborn baby’s skin, such as the range from Johnson’s Baby, are apparently too harsh for eczema skin. ( However, I found this cream worked for me for a number of years )
‘Be wary of everything!’ you get told, ‘Don’t let anything abrasive in even the slightest way touch this precious skin!’
And then the skin experts say, ‘You should be putting your baby in a bleach bath,’
And as a parent, you look at them in incredulous disbelief and say, ‘What the…?’
A non-exhaustive list of things that could cause sensitive eczema skin to flare up
- Most chemicals in skin care products
- Central heating
- Manmade fibres
- Clothes with tags or seams
- Chemicals used in regular clothes detergent
- Pet hair
- Swimming pools
- Certain foods such as wheat, dairy and eggs
And the list goes on and on and on. As an eczema sufferer or eczema parent, you start to become wary of everything.
My children are now 9 and 7 years old and have still never used soap. They are old enough for showers now which seems to be better for their eczema than soaking in a bath. But for a long time, I was doing baths and being super extra mega careful about what to put in them.
What can you put in the bath to wash eczema skin?
With first two children, we knew it was bad within their first months out of the womb. I gave birth to tiny little hot eczema babies.
I had been using the baby products recommended by my midwives at the hospital, but apparently, that was way too harsh to expose tiny eczema babies too. Not only could I not use baby bath products, I couldn’t even use soap or shampoo to wash my baby.
There were, fortunately, some recommended natural products that I could pop in their bath. All of the following were helpful:
It does sound like I was making cake batter rather than bathing my children, but with eczema, you start to learn to just roll with it.
My son would scratch so much that his skin never got a chance to heal, and infection inevitably set in, on his little scalp and chubby red cheeks. Because he was drooling and teething and sucking on his hands as well, his face was always being irritated and exposed to constant bacteria.
So, I gave the bleach bath a try.
Do bleach baths really work?
It certainly worked for both of my babies. It felt very weird doing it; even after I was given direct instructions to do so from my child’s skin specialist I still did the extensive research myself make sure I was still doing the right thing.
But it works, and like most treatments for eczema, it very well may make your life easier, so it is worth a try. They do smell a bit bleachy afterward, but no worse than they would after a swim in a public pool.
Bleach bath top tips: Points to Remember
- Choose plain bleach with no added fragrance or detergents
- Dilute the bleach in the water before you put your child in
- Bleach can lose its concentration over time, so don’t go for an old bottle that’s been in your laundry for years. Buy a new bottle for this purpose.
- Store the bleach out of reach of your children
- Use old towels to dry your child
- Congratulate yourself a little bit for multitasking and cleaning the bath at the same time as disinfecting your child.
- Avoid contact with your eyes
It won’t work for everybody, and it might irritate some people’s skin, but overall it has a positive effect on most. Infection in the wounds and under the crusts is the worse enemy, so I do recommend giving this a try, even if it does sound awfully weird and contrary to keeping harsh substances away from sensitive skin.
If you are unsure, talk to your family doctor or skin specialist first and see what they recommend. But if they have already suggested the bleach bath to you, I say go for it. It definitely helped us.
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