Parenting with Eczema: What You Need to Know

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Eczema in Children

About one in 10 children will develop eczema according to KidsHealth, from Nemours Foundation. Symptoms usually appear within the first few months of life and almost always before the age of 5. On babies, it usually shows up on the forehead, cheeks, and scalp. Toddlers often have it in body folds, such as the folds in the elbows and knees; however, the rash can show up anywhere on the body. Symptoms often improve by the age of 5 or 6, but some people will have flares throughout the teen and early adult years.

Child with a rash on her legs.

Symptoms of Eczema

Eczema causes redness, itchiness and dryness of the skin. The itch is often very intense and can be present even when there isn’t any rash. Young children may rub skin against bedding or carpeting to relieve the itch. It can disrupt sleep. Scratching can lead to open wounds and skin infections according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Children blowing bubbles together.

It’s Not Contagious

Eczema is not contagious. Your child can’t catch it from another child and no one else is in danger of catching it from your child according to the National Eczema Foundation.

Mother helping her daughter put on lotion.

Eczema May Become Milder as a Child Matures

There is no cure for atopic dermatitis. It is a chronic condition but can be managed to keep dryness and rashes under control. For most people, symptoms become milder as the child matures according to the American Academy of Dermatology. For some, symptoms completely disappear by the age of 2 years old.

Parent rubbing ointment on a baby.

Treatment for Eczema for Children

Treatment for eczema includes over-the-counter creams and lotions, prescription topical medications, phototherapy, immunosuppressants, and biologic drugs. The treatment is based on your child's age and the severity of the symptoms, according to the National Eczema Foundation. Talk to your child’s doctor about strategies as soon as symptoms appear. Ask what to do — how often and how long — if the rash doesn’t clear up. Often, treating a flare as soon as possible can help minimize the symptoms.

child washing face

Daily Practices That Minimize Eczema Symptoms

According to the National Eczema Foundation, managing flares involves three basic practices: identifying triggers and taking steps to avoid exposure; daily cleansing and moisturizing, and using over-the-counter or prescription medication consistently and as prescribed. Commit to these and other daily routines to help minimize symptoms and flares.

Child taking a bubble bath.

Triggers of Eczema in Children

Triggers may be different for each person, but some common triggers include: dry skin and irritants like perfumes, chemicals in soaps, bubble bath, shampoo, cleaning chemicals, metals, cigarette smoke, rough fabrics, antibacterial ointments, formaldehyde, and chemicals used to thicken shampoos, according to the National Eczema Foundation. Understanding triggers can help you manage symptoms.

mother giving son medicine

Medications for Eczema Flares

Flares may require medication. People usually start with topical treatments to help relieve the dryness and itching. Antibiotics may be needed to treat infections. Antihistamines can help with itching. For severe flares or episodes, steroids are sometimes used to help with inflammation and reduce symptoms. The most important part of treatment is keeping the skin clean and moisturized.

scientist looking through microscope

Causes of Eczema

Eczema is thought to be caused by a combination of genes and an environmental trigger. The immune system is activated by the trigger and produces inflammation of the skin, which causes red, itchy, painful skin symptoms, according to the National Eczema Foundation.

Mother consulting a pediatrician.

Know When to Call the Doctor

Contact your doctor if you notice increased fever, redness and warmth around affected areas, pus-filled bumps on or around affected areas, areas that look like cold sores or fever blisters, a sudden change or worsening of symptoms, or if your condition is not responding to your doctor’s recommended treatment, according to KidsHealth.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.