Salt water bathing – an eczema parent’s guide

Parents who have watched their children suffer with eczema will know that any suggestions on relieving the itch and soothing their sore skin are worth considering.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence from parents about improvements in atopic eczema after swimming in the sea. This is consistent with our family’s experience, Grandma ScratchSleeves is sure that her childhood eczema improved after the annual week at the beach. So can eczema be improved by swimming in the sea, and is it possible to get the same benefits at home?

There is very little scientific research into the effectiveness of sea salt in treating eczema. The literature includes just one small study with no good baseline to compare to. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that salt water baths may be helpful in clearing up eczema, especially if it is oozing a lot or where secondary infection is common. A number of UK dermatologists recommend regular salt baths to their patients with atoptic eczema as part of their treatment plan.

How can sea salt help eczema?

Firstly, of course, it would be logical to assume that the ability of salt to pull water from soft tissue would result in very dry skin. Of course this is all down to how long you bathe for… don’t stay in salty water for hours on end!

However, the salt in sea water actually has antiseptic properties that can reduce the risk of infection. Infection around over scratched, broken skin is a common result of eczema, especially in young children who don’t have the ability to reason yet and therefore only want the immediate relief of the itch, however they manage it!

Salt water bathing - an eczema parent’s guide

The salt in sea water actually has antiseptic properties that can reduce the risk of infection.

Furthermore, sea salt is packed with healthy skin-friendly minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Magnesium is an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial mineral that not only eases itching, but also draws the moisture from eczema-causing bacteria and fungi to hinder its development.

The minerals in sea water once absorbed by the skin can help keep it soft and moisturised. The salt-water has anti-inflammatory benefits as well, helping reduce swollen and painful skin while relieving itching.

How to prepare a salt water bath for eczema treatment

  1. Use 1 cup of Epsom salt or sea salt for a standard-size bathtub.
  2. Pour the salt into the warm running bath water and use your hand to stir the water to help dissolve all the grains. If the grains are large and you are bathing a young child it is advisable to dissolve them in hot water first and add them in that way.
  3. Soak in the tub for at least 20 minutes.

Of course, there is a caveat. You’ve all heard the expression “pouring salt on an open wound” and there is no doubt that salt water bathing can make sensitive, damaged skin sting like crazy. In this case either reduce the amount of salt you use the next time or wait until the worst of a flare up is over before attempting it with your little one.

It is important to rinse with fresh water after a salt water bath to remove any residue and prevent that scratchy “beach” feeling when you put clothes or pyjamas back on them. Pat gently with a towel and apply any emollients as usual onto slightly damp skin.

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Our Editorial Policy

Here at ScratchSleeves we aim to bring you trustworthy and accurate information. We collaborate with qualified dermatologists and doctors as well as drawing on peer-reviewed medical studies and our own experience as parents. All medical content is reviewed by a dermatologist or appropriate doctor prior to publication to ensure completeness, accuracy and appropriate use of medical language. Reviewer details can be found at the bottom of each reviewed post and also on our ‘Meet The Team’ page.

All scientific research referred to in our blog is found in peer-reviewed publications. All the eczema related medical articles we refer to are included in the GREAT database (Global Resource of Eczema Trials) managed by the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology at the University of Nottingham. This database brings together information on all randomised control trials and systematic reviews of eczema treatments. Trials are identified using a highly sensitive, comprehensive search strategy that is compatible with standard Cochrane methodology. Cochrane is internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. Links to the publications we refer to are listed at the bottom of each article.

Disclaimer

The original editorial information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it in because of anything you have read on the ScratchSleeves blog.

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