Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Eczema is common among babies. Eczema is a skin rash that can affect any part of your child's body: face, hands, arms and legs.

This rash (also called atopic dermatitis) is very itchy. It causes dry, scaly skin that often has a pinkish base. Eczema cannot be spread. It is usually worse in the winter, when the air is dry.

Try to keep your child from scratching the itchy rash. This may cause the rash to open and become infected.

Symptoms of eczema are:

  • dry, pink, scaly, itchy patches of skin
  • skin that is sensitive to the touch.

Eczema is not caused by skin being dirty. Cleaning the skin too often can make the eczema worse.

How to make your child comfortable

There is no cure for eczema, but there are ways to control the itching and the rash.

  • Have your child soak for up to 15 minutes in lukewarm water in a tub. Follow that by putting on a lot of skin moisturizer that doesn't irritate her skin (such as Eucerin®, Cetaphil® or Aquaphor®).
  • Clip your child's fingernails so she can't scratch. If that doesn't work, have her wear lightweight gloves or mittens.
  • Wash new clothes before wearing them. Use clothing made out of cotton.
  • Consider giving your child an antihistamine. Call your health care provider for a recommendation.

Common eczema medicine

There is one common type of eczema medicine: a corticosteroid cream or ointment (hydrocortisone 1%) that is spread on the skin. Although the cream can be bought over-the-counter, most children with severe eczema will benefit from stronger creams that your health care provider can prescribe after he examines your child at the clinic.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider if your child is not better in seven days or if the eczema is crusty or is draining.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. For inclusivity, this guide uses "them" and "their."
Reviewed By: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2016