Bleach Baths Versus Normal Baths for Atopic Dermatitis
Node Smith, ND
Atopic Dermatitis is often part of a Larger Symptom Triad
A recent article reviewed the efficacy of bleach baths versus regular plain water baths in reducing the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.1 Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common form eczema – roughly 17.8 million people suffer from the condition in the United States. It usually presents as an itchy, red rash on the cheeks, arms and legs. AD is often a part of a larger symptom triad, including asthma and rhinitis (hay fever). The first signs of AD often begin in childhood, and it is commonly treated, conventionally, with corticosteroids and various other topical lotions and creams.
Skin Conditions are Difficult to Treat from a Conventional Standpoint
From a conventional standpoint, skin conditions are difficult to treat and resolve, and many patients with AD suffer for years before they uncover a dietary intolerance or environmental allergy as the causal factor of their symptoms. There are various methods of attempting to lessen the symptomatic itching of AD, and one which is often recommended is the “bleach bath.” It is a bath with a small amount of bleach added, meant to kill bacteria on the skin.
From the Mayo Clinic, instructions for a bleach bath are as follows:
- Add 1/2 cup (about 118 milliliters) of bleach to a 40-gallon (about 151-liter) bathtub filled with warm water.
- Measures are for a U.S. standard-sized tub filled to the overflow drainage holes. Use household bleach, not concentrated bleach.
- Soak from the neck down or just the affected areas of skin for about 10 minutes.
- Rinse if your skin doesn’t tolerate the bleach bath well. Gently pat dry with a towel.
- Immediately apply moisturizer generously.
- Take a bleach bath no more than three times a week.
Bleach Bath Results
The study in question found that these bleach baths are probably no more effective at alleviating symptoms than a normal water bath. The authors of the study looked at four separate studies and compared the reduction in symptom severity after taking various kinds of baths. They concluded that bleach baths may help reduce symptom severity of AD, however, no more so than a regular bath.
- Chopra R, Vakharia PP, Sacotte R, Silverberg JI. Efficacy of bleach baths in reducing severity of atopic dermatitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2017;119(5):435-440.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.