Throw Out the Bleach (Not the Baby) and Keep the Bath Water When Seeking Relief from Severe Atopic Dermatitis

When you suffer with severe atopic dermatitis you can get pretty desperate to do anything to relieve the itch and other symptoms. So taking a bleach-bath is not out of the question. In fact, until now, bleach baths were recommended therapy. But researchers at Northwestern Medicine are pulling the plug on the theory that bleach is the answer to relieve itch and infection. In fact, the study showed that bleach baths can cause stinging and burning of skin, and occasionally even trigger asthma flare-ups in patients.

As it turns out, plain old bath water may be just as effective as a soothing agent for atopic dermatitis as a chlorine-infused soak.

“The water baths appear to be doing most of the heavy lifting,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Jonathan Silverberg. “If bleach is adding any benefit, it’s quite modest.”

Silverberg should know. He’s an assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine and director of Northwestern Medicine’s Multidisciplinary Eczema Center. The study was published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology on November 13th.

Silverberg noted that many people with severe atopic dermititis avoid baths because of their potential for drying out the skin and causing further flare ups. But the study indicated that soaking in regular, warm tub of H2O for 10 minutes has as much, or more, therapeutic benefit than a bleach bath.

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