Family Center for Asthma and Allergic Diseases

Skin Conditions

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis, also referred to as eczema, is an inflammation of the skin that causes reddening, scaling and sometimes intense itchiness. Eczema runs in families especially families that also have a history of asthma, hay fever or food allergies. Between 2% and 4% of children under the age of seven have eczema, often starting between the ages of two months and six months. In about half of these cases, the condition clears up on its own before the child is five years old. Of the remaining children, most will grow out of their symptoms before they reach adolescence. In some cases, however, eczema will carry on into adulthood, sometimes clearing up and then reappearing.

There is currently no cure for eczema, but most children grow out of it. Until that happens, there are plenty of things we can do to make you child as comfortable as possible.

What Does Eczema Look Like?

When eczema is present, the skin may look dry and flaky. Sometimes in the morning you may find scaly pieces of dry skin that have flaked off. In some children, the skin becomes bright red and thick-looking. Blisters may appear that look like little grains of rice. If the skin is inflamed or the child has been scratching, the skin may be “weeping,” with fluid oozing out. If it is infected, the skin may have pus-filled blisters, or may ooze green or yellow pus. Fortunately, eczema often does not leave scars.

Causes of Eczema

Doctors are not really sure what causes eczema. However, as mentioned, it is a genetic family trait. There are certain genes that can cause some people to have extra-sensitive skin.

Here are the things that can trigger eczema:

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis refers to an inflammation of the skin resulting from direct contact of a substance with the surface of the skin. Unlike atopic dermatitis, there is not necessarily a pre-disposition to allergic disease.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

There are two types of contact dermatitis:

Irritant contact dermatitis

It is is the most common form and is caused when substances such as solvents or other chemicals irritate the skin. The exposure produces red, often more painful than itchy, patches on the involved skin areas.

Allergic contact dermatitis

It occurs when a substance triggers an immune response. Nickel, perfumes, dyes, rubber (latex) products, poison ivy, topical medications and cosmetics frequently cause allergic contact dermatitis.