Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Eczema is a very common chronic itchy skin condition. It is most often hereditary and triggered by a variety of everyday conditions. Irritating ingredients in soaps, detergents, fabric softeners, dyes, or perfumes can worsen eczema. Stress, dry skin, low humidity, or allergies can also aggravate this condition.


Atopic dermatitis begins as very dry, itchy, skin. It usually appears in the elbow creases, behind the knees, on the cheeks, and on the buttocks. The rash can become swollen, red, and sore. Scratching can damage the skin and prolong the rash by causing infection. Clear fluid may leak from the rash, and eventually the rash will crust over and become scaly.


Stopping the itching is an important step in treating eczema. Your health care provider may prescribe a corticosteroid cream or ointment to apply to the rash. This will help reduce itching and inflammation. Antihistamines can reduce itching as well. If your rash is severe, other drugs may be prescribed by your provider. While there is treatment for eczema, there is no cure. Many people who had eczema as children improve as adults. However, most continue to have dry sensitive skin. Eczema may flare up in times of stress or with exposure to irritants.


  • Limit contact with things that can irritate your skin.

  • Wear cotton or cotton blend clothes.

  • Use lukewarm (not hot) water and a small amount of mild soap when you shower or bathe.

  • Soaking in a tub for 15 or 20 minutes can help. Pat your skin dry with a soft towel and immediately apply moisturizer to your skin.

  • Don’t scrub with a washcloth, as this may irritate the skin.

  • Use a moisturizer every day. Make sure it doesn’t have irritating ingredients or perfumes.

  • Avoid scratching your rash. Scratching will make it worse and can lead to bacterial infection.

  • Avoid getting too hot and sweaty. This can make your skin more irritated.

  • Atopic dermatitis can flare up when you’re under stress. Learn stress reduction techniques such a deep breathing to manage stress.