Eczema is an itchy, inflamed rash that can occur on the face, limbs and body. The exact causes are unknown, but it may be linked to allergies and a genetic component is suspected since it tends to occur in families. Stress, infections like colds and allergic reactions can increase the number and severity of outbreaks. There is no cure for eczema, but treatment can alleviate the symptoms.
Occurrence of Eczema in the General Population
Eczema is most common in infants, affecting between 10% and 20% of children under the age of ten. In many cases these infants outgrow the condition and it is less common among teens and adults, occurring in about 3% of the population.
Gender and race do not appear to play a role in the development of eczema since it occurs in both males and females and members of different races equally. Treatment protocols vary and different treatments may be tried until the patient’s doctor finds a combination that provides relief.
Eczema and Staphylococcus Aureus
This staph bacteria is found naturally on skin, but it may lead to infection when the surface of the skin is irritated or broken as occurs with the eczema rash. While the bacteria is not believed to cause eczema, it may exacerbate the condition so antibacterial creams, topical antiseptics and oral antibiotics are usually included when treating outbreaks.
Controlling the growth of skin bacteria seems to alleviate the symptoms of eczema, especially in infants and children, which has led to the use of bleach baths for treatment of this disease.
Bleach Baths for Eczema Outbreaks
Household bleach contains a 3% to 6% solution of hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite, lye and calcium hypochlorite and it is highly effective in sanitizing clothing and surfaces, even in low concentrations.
While it can be a skin irritant, when diluted in water it kills staph bacteria on the skin and most people do not suffer adverse side effects from the use of bleach in a bath. In published clinical studies, an improvement in eczema symptoms was noted one to three months after patients started bleach therapy.
Bleach Treatments for Children and Infants
Parents of children and infants with eczema may be reluctant to use bleach as a therapy for the disease. It is known to be toxic and in higher concentrations it can irritate sensitive skin. Bleach is effective in killing staph bacteria even when highly diluted with water and the concentrations of bleach in a dilute bath are quite low.
Care should be taken to insure that infants and children do not drink the bath water, but there is no risk to most children from bleach treatments. If skin becomes too dry, the therapy should be discontinued.
Bleach baths are not intended to replace other treatments for eczema. When used with other treatments, this therapy can help lessen the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Before adding any new therapy to a treatment regimen, patients or their parents should talk to their dermatologist about the potential risks and benefits of the therapy.
While nothing can cure eczema, treatment can relieve the symptoms for many patients.