In the largest-ever study of wet wrap therapy—also called soak-and-seal—researchers at National Jewish Health in Denver evaluated the technique in 72 children who had a mean score of 50 (severe) assessed using the Scoring Atopic Dermatitis and AD Quickscore instruments.
The children soaked in a bathtub of warm water for 10 to 20 minutes. While their skin was still damp, topical medications were applied to areas of eczema and creams or ointments to clear skin. To seal in the moisture and medication, the children were either dressed in wet clothing or wraps were applied followed by a layer of dry clothing. After at least 2 hours, the clothing and wrapping were removed. Researchers applied wet wraps 2 or 3 times a day for about 2 weeks, gradually reducing the wrapped area to just the affected skin.
The treated children experienced a 71% decrease in symptoms overall and maintained clinical improvement a month after treatment was discontinued. Mean severity scores declined from roughly 50 to around 15. None of the children needed systemic immunosuppressive therapy to control symptoms during the treatment, and only 31% received oral antibiotics.
Researchers caution parents against trying to use wet wrap therapy on their own because the procedure needs to be followed correctly, and overusing it can do more harm than good.
An estimated 20% of children in the United States have AD, and the incidence is rising. Medications used to control more severe symptoms, such as immunosuppressive drugs and oral corticosteroids, can have long-term effects on bones, blood pressure, and kidneys, leaving parents seeking treatments that reduce the need for these drugs.