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Below are some frequently asked questions about sitz baths.
How to Use a Sitz Bath
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.
Updated on September 27, 2022
Jay Yepuri, MD, MS, is board-certified in gastroenterology. He is a partner with Digestive Health Associates of Texas and a medical director at Texas Health Harris Methodist HEB Hospital .
A sitz bath is often used to gently clean the area between the genitals and anus (perineum) if contact is too painful. They can also help to soothe and heal the area.
While it is not a cure for any condition, you can use a sitz bath as an effective home remedy to relieve your or your child’s discomfort. Common reasons to use a sitz bath include:
- Discomfort from constipation or diarrhea
- Recent surgery in the perineal area
- Pain from anal fissures
- Discomfort from hemorrhoids
- Itching and pain from genital herpes
- Vaginal tears following childbirth
- Rash or chafing in the perineal area
Buy a Sitz Bath Kit
Sitz baths be purchased online or at most brick-and-mortar medical supply stores for an average of $10-$30. The plastic basin rests on top of your toilet seat.
Sitz bath kits often include a plastic bag with a tube on the end that can be used to spray water into the affected area. Higher-priced kitz baths include a long hose that you can attach to a faucet for easy filling.
You can also use your bath tub if you’d prefer not to use a sitz bath kit.
Choose Helpful Sitz Bath Add-Ins
You can either use a sitz bath with just warm water or add certain ingredients to make the process more comfortable and reduce the risk of infection, including but not limited to:
- Epsom salts
- Sea salt (non-iodized)
- Witch hazel
- Baking soda
You can also add olive oil, essential oils, herbs, and aromatherapy fragrances. Just be sure to add products that won’t further irritate your skin.
What Should Not Go in a Sitz Bath?
Do not add any of the following to a sitz bath:
- Shower gel, bubble bath, or any type of soap: These products can dry out damaged skin.
- Any additions that are not meant to be put on the skin you are soaking: These may make your symptoms worse or dry out skin that’s already chafed.
Find the Best Soaking Position
Take the time to find the most comfortable position. If you’re using a portable sitz bath, gently lower yourself onto the seat. The basin part of the seat has been cut out to allow any excess water to flow through and prevent overflow.
If you’re using a bathtub, lower yourself in the way you would an ordinary bath, but bend your knees when you sit to take some of the pressure off the perineum. You can prop your feet on the tub’s edge to make yourself more comfortable.
Adjust the water temperature to your liking, then sit back and relax.
When you’re done with your sitz bath, it’s important to clean up. Luckily, it’s quick and easy to do.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water.
- If you used a portable sitz bath, wash it in hot water with a mild detergent. Don’t put it in a dishwasher.
- If you used your bathtub, rinse it out. Then, clean it as you usually do.
A sitz bath can help soothe conditions affecting the area between the anus and genitals.
You can use your bathtub for a sitz bath or a portable basin that sits on top of your toilet seat. You can also put soothing add-ins to the warm water, like Epsom salt, but avoid any productions (like bubble baths) that can irritate or dry out your skin.
You can soak in a sitz bath for about 15 to 20 minutes. When you’re done, let the area air dry and add any medicated skincare, if needed.
Sitz baths are warm, shallow baths people use to cleanse the perineum and relieve pain and itching in this area.
A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath people sit in to cleanse the perineum, which is the space between the rectum and the vulva or scrotum. A sitz bath can also provide relief from pain or itching in the genital area.
You can give yourself a sitz bath in your bathtub or with a plastic kit that fits over your toilet. This kit is a round, shallow basin that often comes with a plastic bag that has long tubing on the end. You can fill this bag with warm water and safely fill the bath via the tubing.
The basin is slightly larger than a standard toilet bowl. You can safely secure and place it underneath the toilet seat to allow you to remain seated while taking a sitz bath. The kit is available in many stores and pharmacies.
A sitz bath doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription. Some people use sitz baths regularly as a way to cleanse the perineum. In addition to its use in cleansing, the sitz bath’s warm water increases blood flow to the perineal area. This can promote faster healing. A sitz bath also relieves:
Common reasons to consider using a sitz bath include:
- recently having surgery on the vulva or vagina
- recently giving birth
- recently having hemorrhoids surgically removed
- having discomfort from hemorrhoids
- having discomfort with bowel movements
Both children and adults can use sitz baths. Parents should always supervise their children during a sitz bath.
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications or other additives to put in a sitz bath. An example is povidone-iodine, which has antibacterial properties. Adding Epsom salt, vinegar, or baking soda to the water can also create a soothing solution. Many use only warm water without any additives.
If you’re taking a sitz bath in the bathtub, the first step is to clean the tub. Mix 2 tablespoons of bleach with 1/2 gallon of water. Scrub the bathtub and rinse thoroughly.
- Fill the tub with 3 to 4 inches of water. The water should be warm but not hot enough to cause burns or discomfort. You can test the temperature of the water by placing a drop or two on your wrist. When you’ve found a comfortable temperature, add any substances your doctor recommended to the bath.
- Step into the tub and soak your perineum for 15 to 20 minutes. Bend your knees or, if possible, dangle your legs over the sides of the tub to keep them out of the water altogether.
- When you get out of the bathtub, gently pat yourself dry with a clean cotton towel. Don’t rub or scrub the perineum, as this may cause pain and irritation.
- Finish by rinsing the bathtub thoroughly.
A plastic sitz bath kit fits over the toilet. Many kits come with cleaning instructions and solutions. If your kit doesn’t come with those, clean and rinse all materials thoroughly before use.
Once clean, add warm water with any medications or solutions recommended by your doctor. Avoid using water hot enough to burn the skin.
- Place the sitz bath into the open toilet.
- Test it by trying to move it from side to side to ensure it will stay in place and won’t shift.
- You can pour warm water in before you sit down, or you can use the plastic bag and tubing to fill the tub with water after you’ve sat down. The water should be deep enough so that it covers your perineum.
- Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Using the plastic bag, you can add warm water as the original water cools. Most sitz baths have a vent that prevents water from overflowing. The water conveniently overflows into the toilet and can be flushed.
- When you’re finished, stand up and pat the area dry with a clean cotton towel. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing the area when you do this.
- Get the sitz bath ready for its next use by cleaning it thoroughly.
Although there are no guidelines for when to replace your sitz bath, always check it for signs of cracking or weakened areas before and after use.
Doctors sometimes recommend sitz baths after childbirth to reduce perineal pain and help the area heal. You’ll likely be sore and swollen after delivery, whether you had a vaginal delivery or cesarean section. A sitz bath can help relieve discomfort in your perineum and vulva, while also keeping the area clean.
Hemorrhoids, swelling of the veins in the anus and lower rectum, are also common during postpartum. Sitz baths can also help reduce anal swelling caused by hemorrhoids and make it easier to have a bowel movement without pain.
A sitz bath carries very little risk of harm because it’s a noninvasive treatment. The most common adverse event associated with sitz baths is an infection of the perineum, but this rarely occurs. This may happen if you’re caring for a surgical wound and don’t clean the tub or plastic bath thoroughly. Never share your sitz bath with anyone else. Each person should have their own.
Stop using sitz baths and contact your doctor if the pain or itching worsens, or if your perineum becomes red and puffy.
If sitz baths bring you relief, your doctor will probably recommend taking three or four per day until the source of the itching, irritation, or pain is healed. After a sitz bath, you may immediately return to normal activities unless your doctor has told you otherwise.
If you have any pain or bleeding in your anal area, call your doctor right away. These may be signs of hemorrhoids or another condition. Any perineal discomfort or unusual discharge that doesn’t go away after a few sitz baths warrants a call to your doctor to rule out an infection or other causes.
If you’re pregnant or have recently given birth, ask your doctor or nurse about when you can start taking sitz baths. They’ll likely give you specific instructions on when and how to take them.
Below are some frequently asked questions about sitz baths.
What goes in a sitz bath?
A person can take a sitz bath with or without medication. Many people use only water without any additives, but some people may add Epsom salt, vinegar, or baking soda to their baths. A doctor may prescribe a sitz bath with medication for different conditions.
How do you do a sitz bath?
You can take a sitz bath in a bathtub or with a small plastic tub that fits over the toilet. Fill the tub with enough water to cover the perineum. Then, sit in the tub for 15 to 20 minutes.
What are the benefits of a sitz bath?
Sitz baths can offer relief from various conditions, such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and perineal pain and itching. They also help reduce afterbirth pain and swelling during the postpartum period.
Are there any risks associated with a sitz bath?
Sitz baths are typically safe, but there is a slight risk for infection if the tub or plastic bath is not thoroughly clean. It’s also important to ensure the water is not too hot before sitting in the tub. People with open wounds should avoid sitz baths unless directed by a doctor.
A Sitz bath is a shallow bath you sit in to cleanse the perineum and relieve pain and itching. It also helps reduce hemorrhoids and anal swelling, surgical wound irritation, and postpartum discomfort.
There is very little risk associated with sitz baths, but it’s important to ensure the tub or plastic bath is clean, and the water isn’t too hot. Ask your doctor when you can start taking sitz baths after giving birth or having surgery.
Last medically reviewed on July 22, 2022
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- Bužinskienė D, et al. (2022). Perianal diseases in pregnancy and after childbirth: Frequency, risk factors, impact on women’s quality of life and treatment methods.
- Chang J, et al. (2016). Anal health care basics.
- Lawrence A, et al. (2021). External hemorrhoid.
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