CHICAGO--- 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 eczema 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 (atopic dermatitis) 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.
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