Page header image


Brief Version

What is eczema?

Eczema is a red, extremely itchy rash. The rash often starts on the cheeks at 2 to 6 months of age. The rash is mostly on the inside of elbows, wrists, and knees.

Eczema is a type of sensitive, dry skin that runs in families. Eczema is triggered by contact with things like soap or chlorine. Hot baths can also make it worse. In 30% of infants with eczema, flare-ups occur within 2 hours of eating certain foods (such as cow's milk, eggs, or peanut butter.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Steroid creams

    Steroid creams are a way to treat the itch of eczema. Most children need 2 types of steroid creams: one preventive cream to treat mild eczema and another stronger cream to stop a flare-up once it has started.

    Preventive steroid cream. Your child's preventive steroid cream is _________________________. Apply this cream ________ times a day to any spot that itches. Also use it for mild flare-ups. After the rash quiets down, use it for another week. Always take the cream with you when you travel and make sure you buy more before you run out.

    Rescue steroid cream. Your child's rescue cream is _______________________. Apply this cream ________ times a day for severe itching or rash. Never apply this more powerful steroid cream to the face.

  • Hydrating the skin. Keeping skin from drying out prevents flare-ups. Soaking in a bath once a day for 10 minutes also helps the itching. Soaps make eczema worse. Young children usually do not need soap. Teenagers need a gentle soap such as Dove to wash under the arms, the genital area, and the feet.
  • Lubricating cream. After the bath, apply a cream such as Keri, Lubriderm, Nivea, or Nutraderm. Put on the cream within 3 minutes after the bath to trap the moisture in the skin.
  • Antihistamine medicine.

    An antihistamine is needed at bedtime for itching that is keeping your child from getting to sleep or causes your child to wake up during the night. Your child's antihistamine is ___________________. Give _________ at bedtime for _____________ days.

How can I prevent eczema?

Cotton clothes should be worn as much as possible. Do not overdress your child. Avoid triggers that cause eczema to flare up, such as too much heat or cold, sweating, dry air (use a humidifier), chlorine, harsh chemicals, and soaps. Never use bubble bath.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • The rash looks infected and your child has a fever.
  • The rash flares up after contact with fever blisters.

Call your child's doctor during office hours if:

  • The rash becomes raw and open in several places.
  • The rash looks infected (red streaks, pus, yellow scabs).
  • The rash hasn't improved after 7 days of treatment.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-10
Last reviewed: 2006-02-23
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
Page footer image