Eczema occurs in adults and children, but is most common in babies. It results in extremely dry, itchy skin, and sometimes inflamed rashes. Some medical professionals believe infrequent bathing (less than once a day) helps prevent skin irritation.
However, others contend that bathing at least once a day helps keep skin hydrated, as long as baths are followed by immediate use of a moisturizer to seal in moisture. This process was dubbed "soak and smear" in the paper written by Dr. Ivan Cardona, an allergy and immunology specialist from Portland, Maine, and colleagues.
"A number of medical groups have commented on the general role of bathing in eczema. But they don't all agree on the best bathing practices," Cardona said in an American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) news release.
Parents may have received conflicting advice about bathing, and often bring their questions to the allergist, Cardona said. He and his colleagues reviewed past studies published on the topic to see if there was agreement on just how often children with eczema should be bathed.
The researchers concluded that daily baths are fine, followed by thorough moisturizing.
"The smear part is really the most important element, because unless moisturizer is applied immediately, then the skin is likely to dry out even more," said paper co-author Dr. Neal Jain. He is an allergist-immunologist from Gilbert, Ariz.
"The weight of the evidence in the literature we reviewed and our experience in caring for these patients suggests daily bathing with 'soak and smear' is more effective for soothing dry skin from eczema," Jain said.
The paper was published June 28 in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on eczema.
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