Bleach baths can help—just do them right

The Pediatric Insider

© 2012 Roy Benaroch, MD

“My doctor recommended that my child soak in a bleach bath to prevent staph. Can that be right?”

Whoa, wait just a minute here. Kids should NOT soak in undiluted bleach—no way, no how. I think there may have been a misunderstanding here. Diluted bleach baths can be a way to help prevent staph infections, but you need to do them correctly.

  1. Put about 10-12 inches of water in an ordinary-sized tub. If you’ve got one of those big garden tubs, that’ll be more water, so you’ll need to add more bleach in the next step.
  2. Add ¼ to ½ cup or ordinary household bleach. Not the ultra-concentrated stuff, the cheap ordinary stuff mama used to use.
  3. Add the child. Naked. Encourage him to scoot and move around, but let’s keep the splashing to a minimum. Ideally the water should come up to his chin. The most important body part to get under the water and move around is the butt and genitals.
  4. Soak for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Afterwards, drain the tub. Junior can take a regular shower if he wants, or just dry off and get dressed.

That amount of bleach adds a chlorine concentration similar to what’s in a swimming pool, and won’t hurt or bleach skin. It also won’t hurt if a little bit gets in the mouth.

Bleach baths can be done every day for a week or so to help treat an acute staph infection, and can then be continued about once a week to prevent recurrences. They’re also helpful to control eczema, which often flares up when skin is colonized with staph. They’re safe, they help, and they’re a good idea—just do ‘em right!

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5 Comments on “Bleach baths can help—just do them right”

  1. oldmdgirl Says:

    Would going swimming once a week in a swimming pool produce a similar effect? Just curious!

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  2. Sheri Flink Says:

    Any similar treatment for molluscum?

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  3. Dr. Roy Says:

    oldmdgirl, I think swimming in an ordinary-chlorine pool would help as much, yes. Though many pools now use ozone or other things to reduce chlorine– so I can’t speak for those kinds of pools.

    We do see less eczema in the summer, perhaps from a combination of swimming and sunlight. Impetigo remains common all summer, though a lot of that is from insect bites.

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  4. Dr. Roy Says:

    Sheri, though molluscum is triggered by an infection I don’t think there’s any evidence that antiseptics or antivirals really help. So I doubt bleach would. Molluscum remains difficult to treat!

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  5. Shannon Says:

    My son’s eczema is actually worse n the summer

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