Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)


  • Red, extremely itchy rash
  • Often starts on the cheeks at 2-6 months of age
  • Most common on flexor surfaces (creases) of elbows, wrists, and knees
  • Occasionally, neck, ankles, and feet involved
  • Rash raw and weepy if scratched
  • Constant dry skin
  • This diagnosis must be confirmed by a physician

Eczema Cause

Eczema is an inherited type of sensitive skin. A personal history of asthma or hay fever or a family history of eczema makes it more likely that your child has eczema. Flare-ups occur when there is contact with irritating substances (e.g., soap or chlorine).

In 30% of infants with eczema, certain foods cause the eczema to flare up. If you suspect a particular food item (e.g., cow’s milk, eggs, or peanut butter) is causing your child’s flare-ups, feed that food to your child one time (a “challenge”) after avoiding it for 2 weeks. If it does cause flare-ups, the eczema should become itchy or develop hives within 2 hours of ingestion. If this occurs, avoid ever giving this food to your child and talk to us about food substitutes.

Expected Course

This is a chronic condition and will usually not go away before adolescence. Therefore early treatment of any itching is the key to preventing a severe rash.

Home Treatment for Eczema

Steroid Creams. Steroid cream is the main treatment for itchy eczema. There are several types of steroid cream available and they should be used 2 times/day until the rash quiets down. When the rash quiets down, use it at least once daily for an additional 2 weeks. After that, use it immediately on any spot that itches. When you travel with your child, always take the steroid cream with you. If your supply starts to run out, get the prescription renewed.

Bathing and Hydrating the Skin. Hydration of the skin followed by lubricating cream is the main way to prevent flare-ups of eczema. Your child should have one bath each day for a short time. Water-soaked skin is far less itchy. Eczema is very sensitive to soaps. Cetaphil body wash is a hydrating body wash and can be used on children of all ages. Cetaphil is the skin cleanser of choice by many dermatologists.

Lubricating Cream. Children with eczema always have dry skin. After a 10-minute bath, the skin is hydrated and feels good. Help trap the moisture in the skin by applying an outer layer of lubricating cream to the entire skin surface while it is damp. Apply it after steroid cream has been applied to any itchy areas. Apply the lubricating cream once daily (twice daily during the winter). Some lubricating creams are Aveno or Cetaphil. Avoid applying any ointments, petroleum jelly, or vegetable shortening because they can block the sweat glands, increase itching, and worsen the rash (especially in warm weather). Also, soap is needed to wash them off. For severe eczema, ointments may be needed temporarily to heal the skin.

Itching. At the first sign of any itching, apply the steroid cream to the area that itches. Keep your child’s fingernails cut short. Also, wash your child’s hands with water frequently to avoid infecting the eczema.

Prevention. Wool fibers and clothes made of other scratchy, rough materials make eczema worse. Cotton clothes should be worn as much as possible. Avoid triggers that cause eczema to flare up, such as excessive heat, sweating, excessive cold, dry air (use a humidifier), chlorine, harsh chemicals, and soaps. Never use bubble bath. Also, keep your child off the grass during grass pollen season (May and June). Keep your child away from anyone with fever blisters since the herpesvirus can cause a serious skin infection in children with eczema. Try to breast feed all high-risk infants; consider a soy formula, some infants need an elemental formula which we would recommend. Also try to avoid cow’s milk products, eggs, peanut butter, wheat, and fish during the first year of life.


  • The rash looks infected (yellow pus or scabs, spreading redness, red streaks).
  • The rash flares up after contact with someone who has fever blisters (herpes).
  • Your child starts acting very sick.
    During regular hours if:
  • The rash becomes raw and open in several places. · The rash hasn’t greatly improved after 7 days of

using this treatment.
· You have other concerns or questions.