Wet wrapping is a complementary treatment used to alleviate eczema symptoms such as itchiness, inflammation, and redness. The technique involves applying a moisturizer, wet bandages, and dry bandages to affected areas.
Wet wrapping creates a layer of protection over patches of eczema, which helps to relieve symptoms while promoting skin healing. You can use wet wrapping in combination with other eczema treatments.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of wet wrapping to treat eczema, how to do it, and possible side effects.
You can include wet wrap therapy in your eczema treatment plan to manage flare-ups and ease symptoms. The treatment provides a soft layer of protection that may improve comfort, prevent skin damage, and increase the effectiveness of topical medications. It also locks in moisture and protects against irritants, allergens, and microbes.
Wet wrapping helps to soothe, calm, and rehydrate skin during moderate to severe eczema flares. It also reduces skin damage by preventing itching, scratching, and picking. This is especially beneficial for people who subconsciously scratch at night. Wet wraps work to cool the skin, which also makes them helpful for people who overheat at night.
Wet wrap therapy is commonly prescribed for children, and it has shown to be effective for adults as well:
- In a
2014 studyof 72 children with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema), wet wrap therapy reduced the severity of symptoms among study participants.
- In a small
2018 studyof 12 adults with severe atopic dermatitis, wet wrap therapy relieved itchiness, reduced skin lesions, and improved quality of life among the study participants.
Before starting wet wrap therapy, talk with a healthcare professional. They can teach you the correct technique, tell you how often to do it, and advise you on which type of topical product to use.
You can use products such as coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and hydrocortisone creams to treat eczema. Other options include petroleum jelly, essential oils, and witch hazel. Do not use a topical steroid cream without your doctor’s recommendation and supervision.
You can use the following materials for dressings:
- viscose tubular bandages, which are available by prescription or over the counter from your local pharmacy or online
- medical-grade viscose garments, such as vests and leggings
- gauze from a roll
- clean, white cotton clothing
- nanotextile (nanopolyester)
For hands and feet, you can use cotton gloves or socks for the wet layer. For the dry layer, use vinyl gloves or food-grade plastic wrap.
Here are the basic steps of wet wrap therapy:
- After bathing, use a towel to gently pat dry the affected area.
- Use clean hands to apply a generous layer of topical moisturizer to the affected area.
- Soak the dressings in warm water and gently squeeze out any excess water.
- Wrap your skin using warm, wet dressings.
- Wrap a dry layer over the wet layer.
- Use care when getting dressed.
- As long as the wet wraps stay moist, you can keep them on for several hours or overnight.
- Continue treatment for up to 2 weeks.
Wet wrapping to treat moderate to severe eczema is generally well tolerated. However, there are a few potential risks and side effects to consider.
Covering the skin increases the potency of topical treatments, which may make them more effective. However, a doctor must closely monitor the process, especially if you’re using topical steroids.
Emollients (moisturizers) form a layer of protection that seals in moisture, but it can also collect microbes, oil, and irritants, which can cause breakouts and infection. Wet wrapping creates a warm, damp environment that supports bacterial growth and may cause an infection to spread.
Do not wet wrap if you have any sign of a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. Watch out for signs of infection such as painful, inflamed, or blistered skin. If your eczema suddenly changes or worsens, stop using wet wraps and reach out to a healthcare professional.
It’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to emollients, especially if you have sensitive skin. Before using any new product to treat eczema, do a skin patch test.
Here are the steps you can take to do a skin patch test:
- Place the emollient on a small area of skin.
- Use gauze to cover the area and keep the area dry.
- Immediately take off the gauze and clean your skin if you any type of allergic reaction or irritation.
- If you don’t have any adverse reactions within 24 hours, the product is probably safe for you to use.
There are also specially made, tight-fitting clothing and wraps for children and adults. They can help make the process a bit easier, especially if you or your child moves around a lot at night. Products made by Soothems and AD RescueWear, for example, can be purchased online.
Wet wrapping may help to manage moderate to severe eczema flare-ups by protecting, moisturizing, and calming sensitive skin. You can use wet wrapping alongside natural remedies including acupuncture, deep breathing techniques, and meditation.
Consult a healthcare professional before beginning wet wrap therapy and if you experienced any adverse reactions once you begin treatment. Do not use topical steroids without a doctor’s recommendation.