Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammation of the outer layers of the skin. This inflammation leads to a red, itchy, and scaly rash. The eczema rash may be present for a long period of time or it may come and go. It is common in children.
Eczema rash is caused by inflammation that causes skin irritation and damage. This inflammation is caused by an overreaction of the immune system. It is not known exactly why the immune system has this reaction but is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Eczema is more common in children who are of African or Asian descent.
Risk factors for eczema include:
Irritants that can initiate flare ups include:
Eczema usually begins at 3-6 months of age. It may improve over time, usually by age 5-7 years. For some children, the condition may continue into adolescence and early adulthood.
The eczema rash may be present for a long period of time or it may come and go. It can appear anywhere on the body or in just a few areas that may vary by age. Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is made by the appearance and location of the rash. Your child may be referred to a specialist.
There is no cure for eczema. Treatment is focused on managing symptoms.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. The main goals of treatment are to:
Treatment options may vary. Your child’s doctor may recommend more than one depending on your child’s condition.
Irritation of the skin can start or worsen flare ups. Dry skin is one of the most common culprits. Steps to help decrease dry skin and flare-ups include:
Skin infections and irritations need to be treated right away. The longer the inflammation remains, the more damage is done.
In some cases, medication may also be needed to manage flare ups or symptoms:
Infections may also need to be treated with:
If skin care and medications are not effective, light therapy may be used. This therapy exposes the affected skin to specialized light. Treatment options may include:
Eczema is difficult to prevent. This is most true when there is a strong family history.
You may be able to reduce your child’s risk of eczema by:
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
National Eczema Association
Canadian Dermatology Association
Caring for kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Atopic dermatitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115212/Atopic-dermatitis. Updated June 1, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.
Eczema: How to help your child avoid the itch. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Eczema.aspx. Updated August 20 2015. Accessed November 10, 2015.
Eczema. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/skin/eczema_atopic_dermatitis.html#. Updated May 2012. Accessed November 10, 2015.
Eczema. National Eczema Association website. Available at: http://nationaleczema.org/eczema. Accessed November 10, 2015.
Infants and toddlers. National Eczema Association website. Available at: http://nationaleczema.org/eczema/child-eczema/infants-toddlers. Accessed November 10, 2015.
1/28/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115212/Atopic-dermatitis: Horimukai K, Morita K, et al. Application of moisturizer to neonates prevents development of atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Oct;134(4):824-830.
1/4/2016 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115212/Atopic-dermatitis: Zhang A, Silverberg JI. Association of atopic dermatitis with being overweight and obese: a systematic review and metaanalysis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015;72(4):606-618.
Last reviewed November 2017 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.