Using Wet-Wrap Therapy to Treat Dermatitis

There are new medications that have been approved by the FDA to treat atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema. While they can be effective, these biologic drugs can suppress the immune system and have serious side effects. Researchers from the University of Colorado College of Nursing and National Jewish Health say other steps should be taken before prescribing one of these medications.

They have developed guidelines for clinicians that treat patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) that include addressing the basics of AD care such as appropriate skin hydration, identifying irritants and allergens, and treating bacterial, viral or fungal infections. Dr. Noreen Nicol from CU College of Nursing explains that, “Without comprehensive guidelines, we risk clinicians skipping crucial convention steps, such as wet-wrap therapy.”

Wet-wrap therapy is one of the ways to hydrate skin and bring relief to those suffering from atopic dermatitis and even other dry skin conditions. Wet dressings have been around since ancient times to treat inflammation, cool the skin, and reduce itching. Wet-wraps are a good interim step before biologic drugs when prescription strength creams or topical medications alone aren’t helping.

A recent study by Dr. Nicol shows that wet wrap therapy is effective for moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. The study involved 72 children who had the wet dressing applied two to three times a day for two to 16 days. Relief lasted one month after the therapy was stopped. Although much of the research was done on children, as the condition typically starts early in life, adults can also successfully use it.

Dr. Nicol demonstrated a simple way to do a wet dressing during our Facebook Live show, Health Happens that can be effective for AD and other dry skin conditions. It’s a simple soak and seal skincare technique. She says to soak an effected area for 10 to 15 minutes, then apply an ointment or cream, “Ointments are more effective than creams which are more effective than lotions,” she explains.

If you have moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis, you will need a prescription strength topical medication to use under the wraps.

To do the soak and seal technique, Dr. Nicol recommends soaking the affected area or taking a bath to relieve symptoms on your entire body, pat yourself dry, use an ointment or cream to seal in moisture, and cover with a layer of cotton on the affected area.

For more on how to do wet-wrap therapy for atopic dermatitis, check out this article that features Dr. Nicol.