Bleach baths can help—just do them right
© 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.
- 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.
- Add ¼ to ½ cup or ordinary household bleach. Not the ultra-concentrated stuff, the cheap ordinary stuff mama used to use.
- 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.
- Soak for 5-10 minutes.
- 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!