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October 17th, 2011
03:08 PM ET

Will a bleach bath help a child's eczema?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by LaDonna, via e-mail
My grandson is suffering with eczema. Over-the-counter creams aren't working. His skin has been getting worse for the past three weeks. I've heard that bleach baths can help. Is it safe to give him a bleach bath?
Expert answer

Thanks for your question. I'm sorry to hear about your grandson's skin problems. Because bacteria on the skin can make conditions such as eczema worse (or prevent them from healing), some people suggest using a small amount of bleach in the bath water - somewhat like swimming in a chlorinated pool - to remove the germs.

Since I don't know your grandson's age or other medical background, it would be best to check with his doctor to see whether this type of treatment is recommended for his eczema.

Keep in mind that young children and sensitive individuals (such as those with asthma) may develop breathing problems when exposed to chlorine fumes. Chlorine can also be irritating to the eyes, and it's important to make sure children don't swallow any so keep the bottle well out of reach!

Ask our expert doctors a question

If you choose to try bleach baths, be sure to ventilate the bathroom well and use only a small amount of bleach (some doctors suggest using ½ cup of bleach in a full standard-sized tub of water; use less if the tub isn't full). Limit the baths to no more than about twice a week unless your grandson's doctor says otherwise.

Other options might include using lavender oil or other essential oils in the tub for eczema since they may also have antibacterial and soothing properties. Remember, however, that even natural remedies can cause allergic reactions, and the fragrances may also be irritating to kids.

I would be interested to hear from readers on how they have treated their eczema so please feel free to comment below!

Follow Dr. Shu on Twitter


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.