If your child has eczema it is fine to give them a dunk in the bath every day, as long as you apply lots of moisturizing emollient cream to their skin afterwards, say US researchers.
Some experts have said infrequent washing might be better because too much washing can dry out the skin.
To try to settle the debate, allergy doctors in Maine looked at the available medical evidence.
They say while it is best to avoid too much soap, a daily soak is fine.
UK experts agree, although they point out that there hasn’t been a great deal of research in this area and more studies would be helpful.
A proviso to the advice is to “smear” after you’ve gently pat dried, meaning slap on plenty of moisturising lotion after the bath to seal in the moisture.
Bathing can remove surface dirt, irritants and allergens.
Applying specially-designed moisturiser immediately afterwards keeps the skin soft and moist, which will help avoid problems such as infections and dry, cracked skin, they explain in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
But Dr Ivan Cardona says parents should use their own judgement as well. If daily bathing doesn’t appear to help their child’s eczema, or they would rather not do it, they can switch to less frequent baths or showers.
If their child’s condition gets worse they should seek their doctor’s advice.
Amena Warner of Allergy UK said the advice was sensible.
But she said daily baths should only last for a maximum of about 10 minutes so as not to overdo it.
“Once you get out of the bath pat yourself dry with a towel and moisturise instantly. This can help stop the itch and scratch cycle.”
Dr Carsten Flohr, from the British Association of Dermatologists and an expert at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, has been studying the effects of frequent bathing on skin barrier function.
He said daily bathing or washing every other day was fine, but soap, bubble baths and shower gels could irritate the skin and make eczema worse in some people.
Soak and smear
Use lukewarm water – it’s more soothing than hot water, which can sting
Avoid harsh soaps. Instead use “sparing” amounts of a pH balanced skin cleanser
Do not scrub the skin clean, wash it gently
Towel dry by gently patting
Apply emollient immediately after this – emollients are not the same as cosmetic moisturisers and are designed to be used for skin conditions, such as eczema.