All had moderate to severe eczema and were also infected with staph, and all were being treated with a 14-day course of antibiotics.
In addition to the drug treatment, half of the patients took bleach baths and the other half took "placebo" baths without bleach.
The study design called for the patients to soak in the bleach or placebo baths twice a week, but Paller says more frequent baths may be useful during eczema flare-ups.
Children in the study who took the bleach baths had a reduction in eczema severity that was five times greater than the children who took the placebo baths after three months.
The results were so dramatic that researchers stopped the three-month study early so that all the children could benefit from the bleach baths, Paller says.
Children who were randomly assigned to the bleach-bath group of the study also dabbed a topical antibiotic up their nose (where staph bacteria are often harbored). But Paller says she has many patients who don't use this intervention and still improve with bleach baths.
The study appears in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics.
"This is not going to be a cure for everybody, but there is certainly a subset of patients who will benefit tremendously," Paller says.
Bleach for Community-Acquired MRSA?
Dermatologist Cheryl Lee Eberting, MD, who practices in Alpine, Utah, is a big believer in bleach baths.
She recommends them for her patients with eczema, and she says they may have a wider application for addressing a rapidly emerging public health threat -- community-acquired MRSA.
While most MRSA infections still occur in hospital settings, community acquired infections of drug-resistant staph are on the rise. Staph bacteria that are most widely publicized as a cause of breakouts have been traced to gyms and locker rooms.
"If you play a contact sport or work out at the health club a lot, it probably wouldn't hurt to take an occasional bleach bath," Eberting says. Talk to your doctor before doing so.