Bathing in water is just as effective for the treatment of eczema as bathing in a bleach solution, a new review of previous research indicates.
Doctors sometimes recommend a bleach bath, which is a mixture of a small amount of bleach in a pool of cool or warm water. But investigators say the finding should encourage people with eczema to bathe regularly with just water, without fear of drying out their skin. It should also help people avoid the stinging and burning that can come with a bleach bath.
"I don't know if it throws the baby out with the bathwater, but bleach baths lack the evidence to support how commonly they are being recommended," said senior author Dr. Jonathan Silverberg. "The water baths appear to be doing most of the heavy lifting. If bleach is adding any benefit, it's quite modest."
Silverberg is an assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and director of its Multidisciplinary Eczema Center.
Bathing with a bleach solution is sometimes prescribed as a means of controlling both bacterial infection and symptoms, the researchers noted. But their review, which analyzed data from four earlier studies, suggests that it's no more effective at either task than simply bathing in water.
In addition, because many people with eczema also struggle with asthma, bleach fumes can also trigger asthma attacks.
"Patients with eczema have much higher rates of asthma than non-eczema patients," Silverberg said in a Northwestern news release.
"Everyone's home setting is going to be different, and many bathrooms don't have great ventilation, so a warm bath that causes the bleach to fume can be the perfect setup to potentially have an asthma flare-up," he said.
The findings are outlined in a recent issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more on eczema.
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