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What is eczema?
Eczema causes your child’s skin to get bumpy, dry, irritated, itchy and red. This bothersome condition can affect children of all ages. UW Health Kids specialists treat and manage eczema so your child can enjoy a lifetime of healthy skin.
Types and causes
Learn how eczema triggers activate your child’s immune response
Eczema refers to a group of conditions that make the skin dry, itchy and inflamed. Eczema is not contagious, but it does look like something to avoid touching.
While eczema often appears in infancy, many children see improvement by age 5. While some children outgrow their eczema entirely, others see it return, especially during puberty.
There are many kinds of eczema. The most common among children and teens include:
Atopic dermatitis (skin inflammation caused by triggers)
Contact dermatitis (allergic reaction)
Dyshidrotic eczema (itchy blisters on hands, feet, fingers, toes)
Neurodermatitis (intense itchy patches in one or two spots)
Seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap)
Eczema appears when the body’s immune system overreacts to an allergy. There are many triggers and each child reacts differently.
Some common eczema triggers include:
Symptoms and diagnosis
Signs of eczema vary by age
We partner with you to understand your child’s eczema symptoms.
Eczema appears on your child’s skin. The itchy patches can make your child feel uncomfortable and affect their self-esteem.
Bumps, some that leak fluid
Dry, itchy skin
Symptoms can come and go and they may be worse at night.
Bothersome at any age, eczema looks different at different stages of childhood. In infants, eczema:
Appears on the cheeks, forehead or scalp
May spread to the elbows, knees or torso
In older children and teens, eczema:
Can be dark, scarred and thick from scratching
Forms behind the knees, in the elbows, on the neck, inner ankles and wrists
Looks scaly and dry
How we diagnose eczema
There is no test to diagnose eczema. During a physical exam, your child’s doctor will document symptoms and rule out other conditions that cause skin inflammation.
To help identify triggers, the care team might ask you to withhold certain foods or change household detergents. Only through trial and error can you and your doctor discover what is irritating your child’s skin.
Your child is more likely to have eczema if other family members have allergies, asthma or eczema. A family health history can help your doctor diagnose eczema.
A wide range of treatments to help your child cope with eczema
Eczema treatments work to ease symptoms by reducing inflammation and cooling and moisturizing the skin.
Treatments the doctor could prescribe
Topical anti-inflammatory medicines
Treatments you can provide at home
Ways to prevent an eczema flare-up
Avoid getting overheated
Drink plenty of water
Keep fingernails short to prevent skin damage from scratching
Keep your home free of allergens like dust
Learn to manage stress
Take short baths or showers in warm water
Use unscented soaps
Use oil-free moisturizers
Wear cotton clothes that breathe
Wear gloves at night to prevent scratching
How to prevent and treat infections
If the skin breaks from scratching or cracking, eczema rashes can become infected. Call your doctor if you notice your child has:
Areas of skin that look like raised red blisters
Pus-filled bumps near the rash
Redness and warmth on or near the rash
Meet our team
Specialty care for inflamed skin
The UW Health Kids Dermatology team includes pediatric experts in all skin conditions include eczema, psoriasis and allergies.
Finding the care you need
We offer specialized care for eczema and atopic dermatitis in Madison, Wis.