Wet wrap therapy: new alternative for childhood eczema

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471991_75301134Childhood eczema has become more prevalent in recent years, deserving attention and demanding alternate treatment options. Eczema is an inflammatory (and often allergic) skin condition, often coincident with asthma or hay fever. The consequent rashes may appear anywhere on the skin, but are most commonly seen on arms and knees.

Unfortunately, despite its growing incidence, there are limited therapies available for young children. All current treatment options are rather harsh and extreme for children, as most clinicians recommend moisturizers or topical steroids for mild cases and immunosuppressants or oral corticosteroids for severe cases. These therapies, while given a safe stamp of approval, have side effects that threaten a young child s blood pressure, bones, and kidneys when used over a long period of time.

A new study conducted by researchers at National Jewish Health Denver, suggests wet wrap therapy may serve as a safe and even more effective treatment for childhood eczema than the current medicinal options. According to the Cleveland Clinic, eczema or atopic dermatitis cases have increased twofold to threefold since the 1970s. Dr. Mark Boguniewciz, pediatric allergist and immunologist at the National Jewish Health adds, Eczema is not only a big problem in this country, but a huge global health problem.

Wet wrap therapy involves soaking an affected child in warm bathwater for 10 to 20 minutes. Following the bath, the child is patted dry, and a moisturizer and mild medicated ointment is applied to the inflamed and irritated areas of the skin. The child is then immediately wrapped in wet clothing to trap the medication. An additional dry layer of clothing is also added following the wet layer. The wet layers are left for two hours upon removal localized areas of eczema should have improved.

The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, included 72 children. 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. Investigators quantified severity of eczema before and after treatment using two measures: SCORAD (Scoring Atopic Dermatitis) and ADQ (AD Quickscore).

The results indicate that participants of the study who underwent wet wrap therapy had their symptoms reduced by an average of 71 percent. In addition, the improvement was sustained up to a month after the children returned home. The most significant impact of this alternative treatment is that healthy skin remained without prior prescription medications. As such, children were weaned off more powerful oral medications.

Lead author Dr. Boguniewciz comments, From this data and other work, this can be a lasting effect, even when you discontinue treatment ¦The wraps make the medication you put on more effective without reaching for stronger medicines. We wanted to know could we get more out of a lower potency medicine, and this suggests that we can.

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.