Here’s the thing: not everyone who has eczema needs to do this or should do this. I have to soak my hands in bleach water because I experienced back-to-back staph infections that required weeks of antibiotics to cure. The bleaching was a way to keep the staph at bay. I’m not a dermatologist, and bleaching my hands didn’t cure my eczema – it just made it so that I could hold and play with my small son without worrying that I could accidentally kill him.
I have never been terribly good at identifying when I have a staph infection from my hand eczema, but here are a few of the signs that I did recognize somewhat regularly:
– Redness, soreness, and “warmth” in the affected area
– Extreme fatigue
– General feeling of malaise
This, of course, could describe a lot of things. For a while I would dash off to the doctor every time I suspected an infection, until finally I was given an open prescription and permission to diagnose and treat myself. Antibiotic use is hard on the gut, and messing around with antibiotics and staph infections is part of what gave the world MRSA today. I opted for bleach instead of drugs. It took me a while to get used to the idea of soaking my hands in bleach water, and I made some messy mistakes the first few times. Here’s what I recommend:
1. If you have a child or a pet who could potentially distract you, do this when they are asleep or contained somewhere else for at least 10 minutes.
2. Have everything you need assembled ahead of time.
3. Don’t add more bleach to the water than the recommended amount (I tried. It burns. Don’t do it).
4. Use tepid water: not too warm, not too cold.
5. Don’t do this every day. At most I will bleach my hands 3 times a week, but only if I have a lot of open sores that could potentially become infected.
6. I find that it is easiest to do this with the bowl of water on my coffee table while I kneel on the floor in front of it (TV on, of course, because this task is very dull).
In a very large mixing bowl add 1/8 tsp of bleach to 16 cups of tepid water. Seems minute, but trust me, if you increase the amount your hands will itch and burn in the water. I think this goes without saying, but since there are so many fancy and over-marketed bleaches out there: use Chlorinated bleach, unscented, not the color-shield kind, and not the “splashless” kind. Just plain ol’, cheap, nasty, stinky bleach.
Make sure you have within reach:
– A timer (I use my cell phone)
– A hand towel that you don’t mind destroying
– Cotton liner gloves
– Your medicated creams if you use any (I have Mupirocin and Triamcinolone nearby)
– A tube of Vaseline or some other unscented hand cream right next to you
Settle in, put your hands in the water for 8 to 10 minutes, watch some bad TV. When the timer goes off pat your hands dry, put on your medicated creams and wait a few minutes for them to soak in. Then put on your moisturizing cream/ointment (for me it’s Vaseline), put your cotton liner gloves on over everything and keep them on for another hour. Empty the bleach-water immediately.