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Bathing a patient in bed

Alternate Names

Bed bath; Sponge bath

Why a Patient Might Need Bed Baths

Some patients cannot safely leave their bed to bathe. For these patients, daily bed baths can help keep their skin healthy, control odor, and make them feel better. If moving the patient causes pain, plan to give the bed bath after the patient has received pain medicine and it has taken affect.

A bed bath is a good time to inspect the patient’s skin for redness and sores. When you do this, pay special attention to skin folds and bony areas.

Supplies for a Bed Bath

  1. Large bowl of warm water
  2. Soap (either traditional or non-rinse soap)
  3. Two washcloths or sponges
  4. Dry towel
  5. Lotion
  6. Shaving supplies, if you are planning to shave the patient
  7. Comb or other hair care products
  8. If you wash the patient’s hair, use either a dry shampoo that combs out or a basin that is designed for washing hair in bed. This kind of basin has a tube in the bottom that allows you to keep the bed dry before you later drain the water.

How to Give a Bed Bath

  1. Bring all the supplies you will need to the bedside. Raise the bed to a comfortable height to prevent straining your back.
  2. Explain to the patient that you are about to give them a bed bath.
  3. Make sure you uncover only the area you are washing. This will keep the patient from getting too cold, and it provides privacy.
  4. While the patient is lying on their back, begin by washing their head and move toward their feet. Then, roll the patient to one side and wash their back.
  5. To wash the patient’s skin, first wet their skin, then gently apply a small amount of soap. Check with the patient to make sure you are not rubbing too hard.
  6. Make sure you rinse all the soap off, then pat the area dry. Apply lotion before covering the area up.
  7. Bring fresh warm water to the bedside with a clean washcloth to wash the patient’s private area. First wash the genitals, then move toward the buttocks. Remember to wash from front to back.

Review Date: 1/31/2012
Reviewed By: Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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