Atopic Dermatitis / Eczema

Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is a skin condition involved patches of red rashes that may become irritated and itchy. It is especially common in children but may occur at any age. Many patients outgrow eczema by the end of adolescence, although for some the condition is chronic. Eczema may flare periodically and may even appear to be gone for several years before returning.

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Eczema is characterized by red rashes that become:

  • Irritated/sensitive/raw
  • Itchy
  • Dry/cracked
  • Swollen or thickened
  • Red/brownish colored
  • Moist/oozing, especially when scratched
  • Bumpy/raised

Eczema usually appears in cyclic flare-ups and may also be accompanied by hay fever or asthma. This skin condition usually begins before the age of 5. In infants, it appears on the face and scalp. Children, adolescents, and adults with chronic eczema may find it on their hands, wrists, feet, ankles, neck, upper chest, eyelids, and even inside the crook of the knees or elbows. 


The precise cause of eczema is unknown, although it is believed to be connected to the body’s immune responses. While healthy skin retains moisture to protect against irritants and bacteria, skin affected by eczema is less able to provide this natural protection. Known risk factors include having a personal or family history of eczema, allergies (including food allergies), hay fever, and asthma.


Treatment for atopic dermatitis/eczema can relieve discomfort and prevent outbreaks. If the condition is especially bothersome, symptoms persist despite home remedies, the rash appears infected, or there is an accompanying fever, seek immediate medical attention for eczema.

Home and medical treatments include:

  • Moisturizing twice per day with creams, ointments, or lotions
  • For infants, applying petroleum jelly to the skin can help prevent atopic dermatitis
  • Minimizing triggers (common triggers are harsh cleansers, sweat, stress, dust/pollen, obesity, and food allergies)
  • Shorter baths and showers with warm (not hot) water
  • Using gentle soaps
  • Applying medicated creams to control itching and repair the skin
  • Using antibiotic creams or oral antibiotics if the skin is cracked, has an open sore, or has an infection
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications
  • Taking oral antihistamines to reduce itch and cause drowsiness (may be recommended for infants or young children who have trouble sleeping due to nighttime itching and discomfort)