Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) – Symptoms, Causes and Prevention


Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a disease that brings red and itchy skin. It’s normal in kids but can happen at any age. Atopic dermatitis is long-lasting (chronic), and has a propensity to flare periodically. It can come with asthma or hay fever.

No treatment for atopic dermatitis has been found. But therapies and steps of self-care may relieve the itching and avoid new outbreaks. For instance, it helps avoid harsh soaps, regularly moisturize your skin and apply medicated creams or ointments.


Signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema) vary considerably from person to person and include:

  • Dry skin
  • Itching that can be serious, mostly at night
  • Small, raised bumps, which can leak fluid and crust over when scratched
  • Thickened, cracked, scaly skin
  • Raw, sensitive, swollen skin from scratching
  • Red to brownish-grey patches, particularly on hands, feet, ankles, wrists, arms, upper, chest, eyelids, inside bends of the elbows and knees, and in infants, face and scalp

Atopic dermatitis starts most often before age 5 and can continue in adolescence and adulthood. It flares occasionally for some people and then clears up for a while, sometimes for a few years.

When to see a doctor

See a doctor if you or your child:

  • Is so uncomfortable that the condition is affecting sleep and daily activities
  • Has a skin infection — look for red streaks, pus, yellow scabs
  • Continues to experience symptoms while attempting home remedies

If the rash appears contagious and your child is having a fever seek urgent medical attention for your child.


Healthy skin helps with moisture preservation and protects you from bacteria, irritants and allergens. Eczema is due to a variation of the gene that affects the ability of the skin to provide the defence. This allows your skin to be affected by environmental factors, irritants and allergens.

In some children, food allergies may play a role in causing eczema.

Risk factors

The main risk factor for atopic dermatitis is eczema, allergies, hay fever or asthma a personal or family history.


Complications of atopic dermatitis (eczema) may include:

Asthma and Hay Fever: Eczema sometimes precedes these conditions. By age 13, over half of the young children with atopic dermatitis experience asthma and hay fever.

Chronic itchy, scaly skin: A skin disease called neurodermatitis (lichen simplex chronicus) starts with an itchy skin patch. You scratch out the place, making it even itchier. Eventually, you may scratch simply out of habit. This condition may make the affected skin discoloured, thick and leathery.

Skin Infections: Repeated scratching that damages the skin can cause cracks and open sores. These increase the risk of infection from bacteria and viruses, including the herpes simplex virus.

Irritant Hand Dermatitis: This particularly affects people whose jobs frequently require their hands to be wet and exposed to harsh soaps, detergents and disinfectants

Allergic Contact Dermatitis: This condition is popular among atopic dermatitis sufferers.

Sleep problems: The itch-scratch cycle can cause poor sleep quality.


The following suggestions will help avoid dermatitis bouts (flares) and reduce the bathing’s drying effects:

Moisturize the skin twice a day minimum:   Seal the moisture with creams, ointments and lotions. Pick a product or products that suit you well. The use of petroleum jelly on your baby’s skin can help to prevent atopic dermatitis from developing.

Try to identify and avoid triggers that worsen the condition: Things which may make the reaction on the skin worse include sweat, heat, obesity, soaps, detergents, dust and pollen. Minimize your exposure to your triggers.

Children and infants may experience flares from consuming certain foods, such as eggs, milk, soy and wheat. Speak to your child’s doctor about any possible allergies to food

Take shorter baths or showers: Limit your baths and showers to 10 to 15 minutes. And use warm, rather than hot, water.

Take a bleach bath: The American Academy of Dermatology suggests considering a bleach bath to help avoid flares. A bath with diluted bleach eliminates bacteria on the skin and associated infections. In a 40-gallon (151-litre) bathtub full with warm water, add 1/2 cup (118 millilitres) of household bleach not concentrated. Measures are filled into the overflow drainage holes for a typical U.S.-sized pool.

Soak the infected areas of the skin from the neck down or only for about 10 minutes. Do not put your head in. Take a bath with bleach no more than twice a week.

Use soaps which are mild: Deodorant soaps and antibacterial soaps will dry your skin and absorb more natural oils.

Dry yourself carefully: After gently bathing, use a soft towel to rinse your face and apply moisturizer while your face is still moist.

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