A drain showing a sad face in the holes sits beneath bathtub water and next to the plug.

To Bathe or Not To Bathe? Bathing Frequency and Childhood Atopic Dermatitis

The question of bathing children with atopic dermatitis (AD) is one that often leaves parents confused. Is it more helpful to bathe your child with AD every day or only a couple of times a week? Are more baths or fewer baths most helpful when managing a child’s AD?

Parents are often given conflicting information by health care professionals so confusion is common. Primary care doctors often recommend fewer baths, while specialists often recommend daily baths. Parents are left to wonder, which one is best?1-4

There isn't much research on bathing frequency

There have not been many studies on bathing frequency and its effect on childhood AD. Most studies have been small and offered conflicting results. One study found there was no significant difference between the 2 groups tested. In that study, 1 group bathed daily and the other bathed twice a week. Both reported similar results in how well their child’s AD was managed.

A different study found that twice-daily soaking baths followed by emollients (prescription moisturizers) were more effective than twice weekly soaking baths and emollients. So, where does that leave parents of children with AD?1-4

Is bathing good or bad?

Bathing is important for all children because it keeps the skin clean and healthy. It removes allergens and irritants from the skin surface. It allows the skin to hydrate by taking in water. For children with AD, it can also dry out the skin and increase itchiness, which can make parents wary of bathing.

The seasons and bathing with eczema

Every family must figure out what makes the most sense for their child as far as bathing frequency is concerned. Many factors that may impact how often bathing happens. For instance, bathing frequency may need to change based on the seasons. When children spend time outside during the summer, getting hot and sweaty, or getting covered in pollens in the spring, daily baths might be needed. During the winter months when there is not as much dirt and sweat, baths a couple of times a week may be fine.

Deciding how often to bathe with eczema

To decide what is best for your child, pay attention to how your child reacts during and after each bath time. It is helpful to keep a journal, either in a notebook or on your phone, to record and track any patterns. Consider recording:

  • The date and time of bathing
  • How long the bath lasts
  • Other details such as water temperature, and soaps and towels used
  • How your child’s skin looked after the bath and the next morning

Review these entries and see if daily bathing seems better or if bathing 2 to 3 times a week improves your child’s AD symptoms.5

Is there a correct way to bathe with eczema?

More important than bathing frequency is bathing correctly and consistently for AD. Finding a routine and committing to long-term treatment patterns will produce better AD management than focusing only on treatment at times of acute flare-ups.

Bathing in ways that will support the skin and reduce irritation will help your child feel their best. When bathing your child:4-5

  • Keep the water temperature moderate, and not too hot
  • Avoid bubble bath and other commercial soaps or shower gels
  • Use an emollient to clean the skin
  • Limit baths to 15 minutes because longer baths can cause the skin to dry out
  • Gently pat dry with a towel, do not vigorously scrub dry
  • Apply your child’s emollient to the body to seal in moisture
  • Wait 30 minutes (if possible) before applying other treatments to the skin

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