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Salt water bathing – an eczema parent’s guide

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 on the effectiveness of sea salt in treating eczema. The literature includes just one small study of 13 adults in Japan 1 and one laboratory study on mice2. There is also one study that highlights the risks of skin infections when swimming in questionable quality seawater3. Always check the seawater quality with the local council and water authority, especially following periods of heavy rainfall. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that salt water baths may be helpful in clearing up eczema. This is especially true if the eczema is oozing a lot or where the secondary infection is common. A number of UK dermatologists recommend regular salt baths to their patients with atopic 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!

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.

Small boy in the standing in clear sea water with a headland behind. He is wearing google and a snorkle
The salt in sea water actually has antiseptic properties that can reduce the risk of infection.

How to prepare a salt water bath for eczema treatment

  • Use 1 cup of Epsom salt or sea salt for a standard-size bathtub.
  • Pour the salt into the warm running bath water and stir the water to help dissolve all the grains. Alternatively you can dissolve the salts in a jug of very hot water first. This avoids any uncomfortable gritty bits at the bottom of the tub.
  • 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”! 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 or wait until the worst of a flare up is over before attempting it with your little one. According to Grandma ScratchSleeves, the first dip of the holiday was always hell. But it was worth it!

It is important to rinse with fresh water after a saltwater 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.

Our sources:

  1. The effect of balneotherapy with natural mineral dissolved water on dry skin in atopic dermatitis: A phase IIa, nonrandomized, controlled study. Journal of Cutaneous Reserach and Allergy, 2021, Uchiyama A, Fujiwara C, Inoue Y, Uchida K, Hiyama M, Itabashi H, Motegi S. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cia2.12195
  2. Application of concentrated deep sea water inhibits the development of atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in NC/Nga mice. Bak J-P, Kim Y-M, Son J, Kim C-J, Kim E-H. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3517761/
  3. Review: Aquatic Sports Dematoses. Part 2 – In the Water: Saltwater Dermatoses. Brook E. Tlougan MD, Joshua O. Podjasek MD, Brian B. Adams MD. International Journal of Dermatology. 2010. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-4632.2010.04476.x
  4. Salt Water Baths and Eczema – Information for Parents. Nottingham Support Group for Carers of Children with Eczema. 2007

Notre politique éditoriale

Chez ScratchSleeves, notre objectif est de vous fournir des informations fiables et précises. Nous collaborons avec des dermatologues et des médecins qualifiés et nous nous appuyons sur des études médicales évaluées par des pairs et sur notre propre expérience en tant que parents. Tout le contenu médical est revu par un dermatologue ou un médecin compétent avant d'être publié afin de garantir l'exhaustivité, l'exactitude et l'utilisation appropriée du langage médical. Les coordonnées des réviseurs se trouvent au bas de chaque article révisé et sur notre page "Rencontrer l'équipe".

Toutes les recherches scientifiques mentionnées dans notre blog se trouvent dans des publications évaluées par des pairs. Tous les articles médicaux relatifs à l'eczéma auxquels nous faisons référence sont inclus dans la base de données GREAT (Global Resource of Eczema Trials) gérée par le Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology de l'Université de Nottingham. Cette base de données rassemble des informations sur tous les essais contrôlés randomisés et les examens systématiques des traitements de l'eczéma. Les essais sont identifiés à l'aide d'une stratégie de recherche très sensible et complète, compatible avec la méthodologie standard de Cochrane. Cochrane est internationalement reconnu comme la norme la plus élevée en matière de soins de santé fondés sur des données probantes. Les liens vers les publications auxquelles nous faisons référence figurent au bas de chaque article.

Clause de non-responsabilité

Les informations éditoriales originales que nous fournissons ne sont pas destinées à se substituer à un avis médical professionnel, à un diagnostic ou à un traitement. Demandez toujours l'avis de votre médecin ou d'un autre professionnel de la santé qualifié concernant un problème médical. Ne négligez jamais l'avis d'un professionnel de la santé et ne tardez pas à le demander à cause de ce que vous avez lu sur le blog de ScratchSleeves.


Here at ScratchSleeves, we don’t just share our experiences of bringing up an eczema child and favourite allergy-friendly recipes, we also manufacture and sell our unique opstay-on scratch mitts and PJs for itchy babies, toddlers and children. We now stock sizes from 0-adult years in a range of colours. Visit our webshop for more information.

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Écrit par :

Tess a rejoint ScratchSleeves en 2016 et adore pouvoir aider nos petits clients et d'autres parents en difficulté.

Révisé par :

Issue d'une famille de personnes souffrant d'eczéma, Jae s'appuie sur des années d'expérience pratique et directe de la vie avec l'eczéma.

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