Have you ever heard of the wet wrap therapy for eczema? Researchers at National Jewish Health in Denver evaluated this approach to help find safer treatment options and avoid the use of powerful medications like immunosuppressants or topical steroids. This therapy has proven effective in treating eczema, especially in kids.
What is the wet wrap therapy?
It is a very simple technique that can effectively re-hydrate and calm the skin. First, the patient soaks in a bathtub of lukewarm water for about 20 minutes. After the patient is removed from the tub, topical medications are quickly applied to eczematous areas and creams or ointments to the clear skin while the skin is still damp. Then, the patient is immediately dressed in wet clothing or wraps to seal in the moisture, followed by a layer of dry clothing. After at least two hours the clothing is removed.
How effective is it?
A new study co-authored by Boguniewicz, Noreen Nicol, PhD, and Mary Klinnert, PhD, in the July issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows the wet wrap therapy can have profound effects. After being treated by health care teams at National Jewish Health, children who underwent in-patient therapy saw an average reduction in symptoms of 71 percent! Researchers administered wet wrap therapy about two to three times per day for two weeks, based on the severity of the skin condition. Treatment was adjusted and modified to remaining affected regions as improvement was seen. Over roughly four days they saw dramatic improvements. Also, the children maintained healthy skin a month after returning home, and did so without relying solely on medications typically prescribed to these patients.
What are the benefits of wet wrap therapy?
- Skin re-hydration
- More restful sleep
- Reduced redness and inflammation
- Less frequent itching
- Decrease in the Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria found on the skin
- Protect the skin from scratching and allow it to heal
Even if wet wrap therapy can be time-consuming and frustrating, it may serve as a safe and even more effective treatment for childhood eczema than the current medicinal options.
Why trying to find natural ways to manage eczema?
Although the conventional treatments can be very helpful for some patients, some continue to suffer despite the medications, and others suffer side-effects from therapies that are far from totally safe. Using hydrocortisone or other suppressive therapies have some chance of side effects, especially the longer they are used and the stronger the treatment is. Even if a small percentage of the steroid is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream, side effects are likely with prolonged use. Also, different parts of the body are more susceptible to side effects in the skin, such as the face, armpits and genital areas.
Though Boguniewciz and his colleagues see lasting promise with this therapeutic method, they caution parents against trying wet wrap therapy on their own suggesting that overuse can do more harm than good. Wet wrap therapy may be an excellent alternative to drugs such as steroids, antihistamines and antibiotics but should be administered and supervised by a physician until parents and caregivers have a good understanding of the techniques and how often it should be applied.