How to Use a Sitz Bath

Yungatart Sitz Bath

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A sitz bath (derived from the German word sitzen, meaning "to sit") is a plastic tub filled with water used to treat conditions affecting the anorectal area (the area around the anus and rectum). The tub fits over the toilet so that you can sit in a pool of warm water for 15 to 20 minutes to alleviate discomfort associated with episiotomy hemorrhoids, fistulas, anal fissures, and other anorectal conditions.​

A sitz bath can also be performed by soaking in a shallow tub with or without therapeutic additives, such as Epsom salt. This is sometimes referred to as a "hip bath" because the water only comes up to the hip bone.

According to a 2011 study in the Japanese Journal of Nursing Science, people who use sitz baths find them comforting, although there is no clear evidence that they relieve pain or speed the healing of fissures or wounds.

Preparation

A sitz bath can be purchased at many drugstores for around $10. You can also find them at hospital pharmacies or medical supply stores. If you will think you'll need a sitz bath following surgery or the birth of your baby, ask a hospital staff member to provide you one prior to your discharge.

To prepare for a sitz bath, lay out the following items near the toilet that you plan to use:

  • A plastic sitz bath insert
  • A pitcher or large measuring cup
  • A large spoon
  • Clean towels
  • Therapeutic additives, including Epsom salt, witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and non-iodized sea salt (optional)
  • A blow dryer (optional)
  • An emollient moisturizer and/or barrier cream

How to Take a Sitz Bath

There are different types of sitz baths, some with overflow vents and others without. Other models come with a solution bag that is hung above the toilet like an IV bag, allowing water to flow through a tube into the tub via a lockable clamp.

The procedure is more or less similar regardless of the type of sitz bath you purchase. To take a sitz bath:

  1. Install the insert. Lift the toilet lid and seat. Place the plastic sitz bath over the toilet, ensuring that it fits well and does not shift.
  2. Fill with warm water. Fill the sitz bath with clean water using the pitcher or measuring cup. You don't want to water to be scalding hot, but it does need to be warm enough so that it doesn't become chilly as it cools down over the course of 10 to 15 minutes. Do not overfill if the sitz bath does not have built-in overflow vents.
  3. Fill the solution bag. If your bath comes with a solution bag, fill the bag with warm water and attach the tube to the connection point on the tub insert. Be sure that the clamp is locked shut. Hang the bag by its hook on a towel rack. Once ready, you can release water into the sitz bath by unlocking the clamp as needed.
  4. Add therapeutic ingredients. If you choose, you can add Epsom salt, witch hazel, or other ingredients to the water. Epsom salt especially needs warm water to dissolve. Stir with the spoon to mix or dissolve. If you have any cuts or abrasions on your anus or rectum, you may want to avoid vinegar bath solutions.
  5. Soak and relax. Sit in the tub for 10 or 15 minutes (or as recommended by your doctor). Take the time to relax and read a book or listen to music. If your bath comes with a solution bag, you can release warm water into the tub as it cools down. If your sitz bath has vents, you can keep a pitcher of warm water nearby to add as needed
  6. Towel dry. When finished, gently pat the anus and surrounding skin dry with a clean towel. If the skin is too sensitive touch, you can use a blow dryer set on the coolest temperature or simply allow to air-dry.
  7. Moisturize. Soaking the skin for 10 to 15 minutes strips away many of the oils that prevent moisture loss and the infiltration of bacteria into the skin. It is important, therefore, to moisturize after the sitz bath and to dab a little barrier ointment (such as petroleum jelly) onto inflamed or injured skin. The latter helps protect vulnerable tissues during a bowel movement.
  8. Clean the sitz bath. Using dish soap and warm water, scrub the insert clean inside and out, rinsing thoroughly. You should do the same with solution bag, shaking the bag vigorously and allowing the soapy water to run through the tube. Towel dry or air-dry. If dishwasher-safe, you can run the size bath and other items through a heated cycle. Avoid using strong chemicals or bleach.
  9. Wash your hands. Lather your hands with clean, running water and soap. An antibacterial hand sanitizer is useful but not necessary. Wash thoroughly for no less than 30 seconds, lathering the palms, wrists, back of the hands, between the fingers, and under the nails. Rinse with clean, running water and dry.

Use your sitz bath as often as recommended by your doctor, generally several times a day to help ease discomfort. This is one remedy that can be used fairly often, although it is important to allow the skin to dry thoroughly between baths.

Oversaturating the skin with too-frequent sitz baths can promote skin dryness and slow the healing of cuts, fissures, and abrasions.

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Article Sources

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  • Lang DS, Tho PC, Ang EN. Effectiveness of the Sitz bath in managing adult patients with anorectal disorders. Jpn J Nurs Sci. 2011 Dec;8(2):115-28. doi:10.1111/j.1742-7924.2011.00175.x