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Try a bleach bath for eczema relief, UT Southwestern dermatologists suggest

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New research is now validating the age-old practice of adding a capful of bleach to bathwater in order to help relieve itchy symptoms of eczema.

“We have advised our patients of this simple, cost-effective practice for years. But recent research has now confirmed the benefits of diluted bleach baths for patients with atopic dermatitis. The bleach kills bacteria such as staph/MRSA [methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] that plague our patients with eczema,” says Dr. Kent Aftergut, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Aftergut points out that studies have shown that up to 90 percent of patients with eczema carry staph bacteria on their skin.

The bleach works by killing the staph through a mechanism that the bacteria cannot become resistant to.

Dr. Aftergut suggests starting with a capful of bleach added to an entire bath, and no more than a quarter cup of bleach for a standardized bathtub. He has patients soak in this twice a week for at least 15 minutes.

An occasional bath with a capful of bleach added may also be useful for limiting staph infections for others, such as athletes and those who frequent gyms, Dr. Aftergut says. However, consulting a physician before starting a bleach-bath regimen might help avoid harmful reactions.

“Staph/MRSA are becoming more of a problem with so many patients. Special antibacterial washes and oral antibiotics can all breed resistance. We feel more comfortable recommending the dilute bleach baths knowing that the practice will not produce more staph resistance,” Dr. Aftergut says.

Visit www.utsouthwestern.edu/patientcare/medicalservices/dermatology.html to learn more about clinical services in dermatology at UT Southwestern.

Source: University of Texas Southwestern news release, July 2, 2009

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