Whiter laundry and a surprising new treatment for kids' eczema

Apr 27, 2009

It's best known for whitening a load of laundry. But now simple household bleach has a surprising new role: an effective treatment for kids' chronic eczema.

Chronic, severe can mar a childhood. The skin disorder starts with red, itchy, inflamed skin that often becomes crusty and raw from scratching. The eczema disturbs kids' sleep, alters their appearance and affects their concentration in school. The itching is so bad kids may break the skin from scratching and get chronic skin infections that are difficult to treat, especially from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered powerful relief in the form of diluted beach baths. It's a cheap, simple and safe treatment that drastically improves the rash as well as reduces flare-ups of eczema, which affects 17 percent of school-age children.

The study found giving pediatric patients with moderate or severe eczema () diluted bleach baths decreased signs of infection and improved the severity and extent of the eczema on their bodies. That translates into less scratching, fewer infections and a higher quality of life for these children.

The typical treatment of oral and topical antibiotics increases the risk of bacterial resistance, something doctors try to avoid, especially in children. Bleach kills the bacteria but doesn't have the same risk of creating bacterial resistance.

Patients on the bleach baths had a reduction in eczema severity that was five times greater than those treated with placebos over one to three months, said Amy S. Paller, M.D., the Walter J. Hamlin Professor and chair of dermatology, and professor of pediatrics, at the Feinberg School. Paller also is an attending physician at Children's Memorial Hospital.

The study will be published in the journal Pediatrics April 27.

"We've long struggled with staphylococcal infections in patients with eczema," Paller said. She noted more than two-thirds of eczema patients have evidence of staphylococcus on their skin, the bacteria that most commonly causes infection and worsens the eczema. "This study shows that simple household bleach, which we think decreases the staphylococcus on the skin, can help these children."

In the study, Paller and researchers treated 31 pediatric patients (6 months to 17 years old) who had eczema and a bacterial staph infection for 14 days with oral antibiotics. Half of the patients received bleach in their bath water (half a cup per full standard tub), while the other half received a look-alike . Patients were also instructed to put a topical antibiotic ointment or placebo control into their nose (where the staphylococcus can also grow) for five sequential days of each month. All were instructed to bathe in the bleach twice a week, and soak for five to 10 minutes for three months.

Paller said bathing in the diluted bleach bath water was surprisingly odor-free because of the small amount of bleach added. "In our clinics, no one had the just-out-of-the-swimming pool smell," she said.

The research team saw such rapid improvement in the kids taking the real bleach baths that they terminated the study early because they wanted the children getting the placebo to get the same relief.

"The eczema kept getting better and better with the bleach baths and these baths prevented it from flaring again, which is an ongoing problem for these kids," Paller said. "We presume the bleach has antibacterial properties and decreased the number of bacteria on the skin, which is one of the drivers of flares."

Northwestern researchers launched the study to confirm their hunch about the potential of bleach baths, "since bleach has been used by hospitals in the past few years as a disinfectant to decrease MRSA," Paller said.

One interesting finding in the study was the eczema on the body, arms and legs improved dramatically with the bleach baths, but the face, which was not submerged in the bath, did not improve, further evidence of the positive effect of the bath.

As a result of the study, Paller suggests that kids who have eczema on their face close their eyes and mouths and dunk under the water to help improve the lesions. In her practice, patients have found that even daily bleach baths are well tolerated. The bleach baths may also be useful for individuals with frequent staphylococcus infection, whether related to eczema or not, and in adults with eczema and recurrent infections.

To help treat a rising number of severe cases of eczema, Northwestern's Feinberg School has recently opened an Eczema Care & Education Center.

The new center offers patients one-on-one instruction for treating eczema, while a support group helps patients and their families cope with the emotional aspects of the disease.

"This is a disorder that can drive people crazy," said Peter Lio, M.D., director of the Eczema Care & Education Center and an assistant professor of dermatology and of pediatrics at the Feinberg School. "Eczema beats people down."

Lio said he just worked with an 11-year-old girl who had missed a half-year of school because of her severe eczema. "As we were working with her and demonstrating how to treat her skin, she started weeping," he said. "Between the tears, she said 'I'm crying because I know I'm going to get better.' "

Scientists believe eczema may be triggered by urban pollutants and toxins and/or allergies, and certainly shows a genetic tendency. "We don't have all the answers and are still learning about this disease," Lio said.

Source: Northwestern University (news : web)

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User comments : 9

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LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2009
i plan on testing this on my 6 yr old daughter and my 2 yr old son, whom both have bad eczema...
MadLintElf
not rated yet Apr 27, 2009
Funny, I read about this some time ago and mentioned it to our Pediatrician.

She laughed at me, and said that is crazy.

I've got her E-mail address and plan on sending her this article.

Thank you
LuckyBrandon
3 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2009
madlint elf-i would be curious to hear your pediatricians response to the fact that baking soda baths relieve bee stings. This concept of bleach baths I see as no different than that home remedy.
Western doctors are just now recognizing the abilities of eastern medicine, such as accupuncture, and most still find it laughable that things like accupuncture could help anything.
For them, its all about the money, and not about really helping.
That is the major reason I don't consider any medical field to be true science...

And now let the hail storm of western medicine defenders begin....
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2009
LB, Bee sting venom is acidic and so its effects can be neutralised with bicarbonate of soda or alkali and this reaction reduces the pain.

Oh, and acupuncture did NOT help my wife's several conditions, despite fervent promises by the practitioner. As accupuncture is not 'real medicine', we had no recourse...

Yup, it was about the money, and not really helping.
LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2009
Well its important to have an accurate knowledge of accupuncture, which unfortunately, alot of practioners in our country do not have. I myself have gone through a 12 month course on accupuncture, mainly to tie into realms of martial arts that I practice that involve pressure points (where the martial arts involve the yang-or evil/negative-method that is the exact opposite of the ying that makes up accupunture, and you must understand both to implement strikes in a helpful or harmful way)
Accupuncture is by no means an end all be all cure to anything. What it is really meant for, in my eyes, is due to the precision points of needles going into the dead center of nerve clusters (if you are off, accupuncture will not work), makes for a dulling of symptoms....the best example would be pain symptoms.The fact that I can press a pressure point with my finger somewhere on your body and inflict pain in another place on your body altogether, or on the flip side with needles, relieve pain in another place on the body, shows the concept is true.
Its all up to the practicioners expertise. Don't expect it to cure cancer, bt do expect it can help with teh pain from it.
dirk_bruere
5 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2009
I wonder whether the chlorine in swimming pools has a similar effect?
Au-Pu
1 / 5 (1) Apr 28, 2009
Poor LuckyBrandon.
Unable to distinguish between self hypnosis and genuine repeatable product results.
Some eastern medicine is true and effective. Some like ground rhino horn or ground up tiger penis or other similar concoctions are pure voodoo.
But all old systems are the same they include some good and some bad practices. Some that work and some that don't.
To close ones mind and develop a belief system that it is all good because this is what you want to believe is naive, simplistic and can have fatal consequences for some sufferers.
I have a friend with prostate cancer who is a believer in eastern medicine and he has opted out of standard medicine for the "softer" eastern treatment. The result is that his condition has flared up and advanced dramatically, whereas it's advance had been halted and there were early signs that the tumor was actually shrinking.
Now it is worse than when he started
It is people like you who are so blinkered that they lack all objectivity and make unsupportable claims that encourage the gullible to abandon an unpleasant but working treatment in favour of a touch of witchcraft that feels better but kills them quicker.
Yet you accept no responsibility for the stupidity of your advice and encouragement.
As with all old medical systems you need to be prudent and select those that are a genuinely effective treatment and weed out all the others that are based solely on superstitious nonsense.


To dirk bruere it should work. It all depends upon its concentration.
Household bleach is a diluted form of the chlorine you use in your pools. But half a cup in a standard bath might produce a higher concentration than in a pool. You would need to check this out. Chlorine apparently works by dissolving or breaking down the skin or outer membrane of the virus or bacteria which kills the organism. It is much the same as someone taking your skin off. You wouldn't last very long.
LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (1) Apr 28, 2009
Actually if you read carefully, I defended accupuncture, and said it was merely on the practitioners hands as to how good it was used.

I don't do accupuncture, and in fact, I havent even trained in a few years now. I took that course about 6 years ago. I didn't give advice, nor did I encourage anything.

So, you really need to learn to read better and check your bullshit coat at the door.
el_gramador
not rated yet May 03, 2009
What the guy above me said.

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