Epsom salt is the common name for a mineral found in seawater that was first distilled in the town of Epsom, England. The salt is also called magnesium sulfate, because it is made up of the metal magnesium bonded to sulfur and oxygen. Epsom salts have been used for many years in therapeutic baths, but their use for children has not been well-studied.
Folklore or Facts?
Although the use of Epsom salt as a home remedy has been extolled for hundreds of years, not much conclusive scientific evidence exists specifically to support its medical benefits when dissolved in a bath. However, many people, including some physicians, continue to believe in its usefulness as a healing soak.
Of course, magnesium sulfate has many well-documented medical uses when given by mouth or as an infusion into the bloodstream, such as treating low magnesium levels or certain causes of seizures.
Potential Benefits of Epsom Salt Baths
Having a child take a bath can be part of a comforting routine with or without adding Epsom salt. However, some people believe that Epsom salts especially help in relieving stress, improving circulation and softening the skin. As an added health benefit, the Epsom Salt Council reports that magnesium and sulfates, both important minerals for the body, may be absorbed through the skin.
Use of Epsom Salts for Certain Medical Conditions
According to MayoClinic.com, taking a daily bath can be helpful for treating psoriasis, a common skin disease that causes itchy, scaly, dry skin. A suggested home remedy is to take a daily bath in lukewarm water with Epsom salts and soak for at least 15 minutes.
Parents of children with autism have offered anecdotal support to the benefits of Epsom salt baths to help relax their children and help relieve constipation.
Potential Risks for the Use of Epsom Salts
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is a laxative. If a child swallows the bath water, it could lead to increased bowel movements. Of course, children should never be left unsupervised to take a bath, and they should be monitored to prevent drinking the bath water with the Epsom salt.
Otherwise, Epsom salt baths should be relatively safe, although parents who have children with medical conditions could check with their doctors before regularly using Epsom salt baths.
Should Children Take Epsom Salt Baths?
Like the value of chicken soup, the healing power of Epsom salt baths may rely more on years of anecdotes and various health claims than actual conclusive scientific studies, but that does not mean they do not have the power to work. Children may benefit from Epsom salt baths, and they should be relatively safe. However, it may be wise to check with a doctor if a child has an existing medical condition, has a reaction to an Epsom salt bath or accidentally ingests the salt.
- Texas Children's Hospital. Drug Information and Formulary. Ninth Edition.
- Epsom Salt Council: Report on Absorption of Magnesium Sulfates (Epsom Salts) Across the skin [pdf]
- MayoClinic.com: Psoriasis--Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Mitali Ruths has been a professional writer since 2008. She received her M.D. from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and completed her pediatrics internship at Texas Children's Hospital. Ruths has worked as a magazine editor and contributed to several online publications.