Eczema Treatment

November 27, 2009 5:44:39 PM PST
Bleach bath gives reliefIt's an itchy, painful and uncomfortable condition that keeps millions of children up at night. Eczema is the most common skin problem in kids, impacting more than 17 percent of children in the U.S. Treatment usually involves steroid creams and antibiotics if an infection is present, but now doctors are going back to the basics -- and into the cleaning closet -- to find relief.

Eight-year-old Lego guru Ben Kieffer has the eyes and hands of an aspiring architect. But since he was a baby, those hands have been covered in red, scaly rashes. Ben's battled eczema all over his body.

"It feels really itchy," Ben told Ivanhoe. "It hurts."

"His body would be covered," Ben's mom, Jennifer Kieffer, explained. "His hands would crack."

Creams and antibiotics didn't work, and his skin was constantly infected. It was once infected with MRSA -- the dangerous drug-resistant bacteria.

"He scratches the eczema and then he scratches in the bacteria, and that causes the infection, and it flares the eczema, so you have this circle he couldn't break," Jennifer told Ivanhoe.

Jennifer enrolled Ben in a study -- not for a new drug -- but for a treatment that's as simple as turning on the faucet.

Amy Paller, M.D., a dermatologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, found adding a small amount of household bleach to a child's bath dramatically reduces the rashes and kills the infection. She recommends half a cup for a full tub of water.

"Very easy to obtain, inexpensive way to try to decrease not only the incidence of infection but the severity of the eczema itself," Dr. Paller told Ivanhoe.

In a study, 67 percent of kids with eczema found relief with bleach baths compared to 15 percent who bathed in normal water. Dr. Paller says never apply it directly on the skin because it can burn, and talk to a doctor first.

It's a user-friendly game plan that's given Ben the chance to focus on more important goals.

Ben takes a bleach bath for about 10 minutes just about every day of the week. Doctors say the treatment could also help protect people from community-acquired MRSA.

Those who play contact sports or work out at a health club a lot could benefit from an occasional bleach bath, but they should talk their doctor first.


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