Giving your child a bleach bath to help with eczema, does it work and is it safe?

The New York Times reported that a  study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics showing the children who took a bath in a half a cup of bleach per full standard tub were relieved of their eczema related itching. The bleach apparently had very little odor and the children were relieved of the itching.  I worry that parents might not realize the risks and that there is now different concentrates of bleach and that you have to measure very carefully. After all most children drink their bath water by accident or the water gets into their eyes. My children would always rub their eyes in the bath.  The potential for accidents concern me but Time Magazine explains that using the bleach bath might sound harsh but it’s safer than exposing children to the antibiotics…

“The bottom line is that the more antibiotics we use, the higher the risk for something becoming resistant to them,” says Dr. Amy Paller, a study author, specialist in pediatric dermatology and chair of the dermatology department at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The beauty of something like dilute bleach is that one doesn’t get resistance to it.”

Eczema and Your Child So what is eczema and why is that you would want to put bleach patches on your child’s skin or have them soak in a bath of bleach? The online eczema center compares a bleach bath at home to swimming in a pool but will parents correctly mix the solution and aren’t may pools trying to switch from bleach to safer alternatives? Besides not all bleach solutions are the same and companies like Clorox have ultra bleach with high concentrates. Seems like a dangerous prescription for a doctor to give and easy mistake for concerned parents to make. I guess that is why I worry because when you go to a public pool the chemicals are measured (hopefully correctly) and tested for safe levels. Both my daughter and my niece suffer from eczema so I understand the frustration and wanting to help your child. According to Keep Kids Healthy eczema is:

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a common problem in infants and children. It usually begins between two and six months of age with very dry and sensitive skin that will then become red and extremely itchy. It often starts on the forehead, cheeks and scalp and spreads to the trunk, creases of the elbows, knees, and wrists. With scratching the rash may become raw, crusted and weepy.

Kids Health offers many solutions and helpful tips, none of which include bleach. Avoiding harsh detergents, clothing and lotions instead are suggested. I’m not sure I would call bleach a mild detergent or soap. A March 2009 study claims that food allergies are not to blame for eczema but instead says environmental and seasonal allergies might be playing a role in the increased number of children being diagnosed and suffering from eczema. Eczema can be made worse by allergens like pollen, as well as irritants like soap or woolen clothing, according to the Institute.

“Research knowledge on eczema and allergies is growing quickly, so parents need to make sure that the information they are relying on is based on up-to-date evidence,” commented Professor Sawicki.

I’m not sure I agree with the study totally ruling out food allergies. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that there is often a link between allergies and eczema. Must Know Information on Bleach If you decide to use this determined “safe” remedy I would really like to point out some information about bleach and poisoning – the dangers associated with bleach. From Healthy Child Healthy Word:

Airways and lungs Breathing difficulty (from inhalation) Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty) Pulmonary edema (water filling the lungs) Eyes, ears, nose, and throat Severe pain in the throat Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue Loss of vision Gastrointestinal Severe abdominal pain Vomiting Burns of the esophagus (food pipe) Vomiting blood Blood in the stool Heart and blood vessels Hypotension (low blood pressure) develops rapidly Collapse Skin Irritation Burns Necrosis (holes) in the skin or underlying tissues Blood Severe change in acid levels of the blood (pH balance) which leads to damage in all of the body organs)

Many children I personally know with eczema also suffer from asthma and allergies (my daughter) and if  I used this  bleach remedy it would likely throw her into a horrible asthma attack (even just a little because indoor pools do this to her). Chlorine bleach has even been linked to childhood asthma but a year after this study was released another study comes out telling parents that it is okay to put their child in a bath with chlorine bleach – what?  Chlorine bleach is often something that many kids with allergies and asthma can be very sensitive to and the chlorine can cause a negative reaction. Personally, we opted out of taking my daughter to swimming lessons due to the high chlorine odor and what we felt it would do for her lungs; why would I put her in a bath of it and let her breath it? That is just me but I get that parents are looking for ways to help their child feel better and to stop the itching and infections….I really do get it!  I just worry about blanket statements and articles that could give well meaning parents the wrong idea and then an accident happens and they were just trying to help.

Natural Alternatives and Solutions for Eczema

There are a number of other alternatives that I would personally consider but everyone should contact their doctor and feel comfortable with their choice for treatment. Personally, using probiotics and other natural alternatives and food changes  to help “heal the gut” as well as avoiding all thing harsh on babies skin, using botanical solutions for pain relief and even seeking alternative medicine.

I like how Dr. Amy Well’s explains eczema and that creams and medicine doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Dr. Amy Well’s offers some great suggestions for helping naturally cure and deal with eczema. Some consistent ideas that I have found in my research on eczema (and from my daughter and niece suffering):

1. No Harsh Detergents. Do not use harsh detergents with phostphates, fragrances and chemicals. My sister personally uses California Baby Sensitive Skin and loves how it does not irritate my nieces skin.

2.  Hydration. Keep babies skin moisturized with safe, fragrance free natural lotions to sooth the skin. A humidifier helps to keep the air moist and prevent skin from drying out feeling irritated.

3.  Clip Fingernails. Keep fingernails short. This helps prevent infection and baby or toddler from digging at the skin, causing an open soar.

4.  Food Diary. Consider diet and the book Raising Baby Green. The book talks about solutions and possible food allergies and alternatives.

5.  Environmental Allergies. Have your child tested for environmental allergies that could be causing the child to have a skin reaction. Personally, my daughter has a severe dust mite allergy and washing her bedding often and choosing organic bedding has been helpful.

Other helpful resources:

Dr. Green on eczema

Organic Baby Resource

Healthy Child Healthy World

Whatever it is that you try or decide to do for your child I know you have the best of intentions but talk with your doctor first and make sure you follow their instructions and use the correct concentrate of bleach if this is something you decide to try. I was just in the laundry aisle and I can see how easy it would be for someone to pick up the wrong concentrate of bleach by accident. And make sure if you decide this is an option you want to consider you have a window cracked open or the bathroom fan on!

Why not? Great tips for free!

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