Epsom salt baths are often recommended by practitioners to treat a number of health conditions. Epsom salts, or magnesium sulfate, have a variety of health benefits but can also be hazardous when not used correctly, especially for babies. This is due to the contradictory properties of the two chemicals that make up the salts.
Magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties and is also an essential mineral that is integral in maintaining an electrolyte imbalance. Sulfur on the other hand can have many negative side effects such as skin irritation and diarrhea. It is important to take both the negative and positive effects of Epsom salts into consideration before using them for babies.
Health Conditions Treated By Epsom Salts
Eczema and Psoriasis
Magnesium in Epsom Salts acts as an anti-inflammatory and also assists in the repair of skin cells. The warm bath also relieves discomfort and itchiness associated with eczema. However, sulfur can irritate the skin aggravating discomfort and eczema.
A warm Epsom salt bath has a soothing and calming effect on baby’s digestive system and can help alleviate constipation. If accidentally swallowed, the sulfur can however result in diarrhea.
There is still much debate as to whether detox baths are effective and whether they are beneficial or not. Epsom salt baths are often recommended to detox. Babies are constantly exposed to toxins from their environment, food sources and medications. A warm detox bath can be beneficial in supporting the body in releasing these toxins.
Calming and Relaxing
Warm baths are calming and relaxing for babies and can help alleviate stress. Epsom salts seem to have an additional calming and relaxing effect. Although there is currently no scientific evidence to support this, parents of children on the Autism Spectrum have found it to beneficial.
Epsom salts are an important source of both magnesium and sulfur which are both essential minerals. New research has found that these minerals may be absorbed through the skin. Most people, including babies, are lacking in essential minerals, especially magnesium.
Are Epsom Salt Baths Safe For Babies?
Currently, there is little scientific evidence to support the health benefits or negative side effects of this traditional home remedy even though medical practitioners may prescribe them to treat different health conditions or simple ailments.
There are a number of risks that should be taken into consideration with regards to the safety of Epsom Salt Baths for babies:
Epsom salt baths are considered to be most effective when allowing the baby to soak in the warm water for a period of about 15 to 20 minutes. A baby should never be left unattended when bathing and a parent or adult should supervise the bath for the entire period to prevent swallowing the water, falling asleep in the bath or drowning.
Swallowing Epsom Salts
In the right doses, Epsom salts can be beneficial to adults. However, it is not recommended for babies as it has natural laxative properties and can result in extreme diarrhea in babies if swallowed. It is critical to prevent babies from swallowing the water when bathing to prevent this.
Seek medical attention immediately if the baby has swallowed Epsom Salts and is experiencing extreme diarrhea or diarrhea for and extended period of time.
The sulfur contained in Epsom salts can raise the temperature of water as well as the core temperature of the baby. It is important to check water temperature after the Epsom Salts have been entirely dissolved and before placing a baby in the bath. Monitor the baby’s temperature throughout the bath to ensure that it does not increase significantly. If there is a significant change in body temperature, remove the baby from the bath immediately.
Sulfur can irritate the skin causing itchiness and a rash. Should a negative reaction occur, the baby should be removed from the bath immediately. Do not attempt to bath the baby in Epsom Salts again. The baby could simply be having a mild adverse reaction or could be allergic to the Magnesium or Sulfur in the salts. It may be advisable to rub a solution of Epsom salts and water on a small area of the skin in order to check for a reaction before bathing a baby in an Epsom Salt bath for the first time.
There is currently no scientific evidence to support or contradict how often it is safe to bath a baby in Epsom salts. It is however not recommended to add Epsom salts to every bath. In general, every second or third day should be sufficient to treat severe conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. However, it is largely dependent on the condition being treated as well as recommendation from the treating doctor.
The ratio of Epsom salts to water should not be exceeded. If in doubt, it is best to err on the lesser side and add less to a bath for a baby. It is recommended to follow doctor’s order regarding how much Epsom salts can be safely added to a baby bath. In general, 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salts per standard tub of water is recommended. Dissolve the salts in a small amount of water and then fill the tub to dilute further to ensure that the salts have dissolved entirely.
Low Grade Epsom Salts
Low grade Epsom salts contain additives such as fragrances, preservatives and other chemicals that can be harmful to baby. It is recommended to select only 100% pure Epsom salts (Magnesium Sulfate) from a recognized and approved producer.
Interactions, Contraindications and Side Effects
Due to the fact that there is so little scientific evidence regarding the benefits and negative effects of Epsom salts, it can be difficult to determine whether there are interactions, contra-indications or side-effects to be aware of. It is therefore highly recommended to first consult a doctor, preferably a treating pediatrician, if a baby has any existing health conditions or is being treated for health conditions before using Epsom salts baths.
While there is currently no scientific evidence available to suggest that Epsom baths are not safe for babies, it is always recommended to take precautions to avoid the above risks.