Further Reading

My child has dry skin. Is this eczema?

by Amy R. Beach, CRNP, CLC

Eczema is a skin condition that causes a red rash that itches. Scratching can worsen the condition and cause an itch-scratch cycle. Babies tend to get eczema more on the face and scalp whereas children and adults have the condition more on flexor areas such as elbows and knees. However eczema can occur anywhere.

Why does eczema occur?

Why eczema occurs in some individuals and not others is not well-understood. It can run in families and be associated with certain types of skin and with other conditions such as allergies and asthma. Severe eczema is called atopic dermatitis. Eczema occurs when the skin becomes too dry and becomes irritated.

How is eczema treated?

The best treatment for eczema is keeping the skin hydrated. Baths or showers should be taken daily to remove irritants but should be kept short, under 10 minutes, and should only be lukewarm in temperature. A non-soap cleanser or mild fragrance free soap should be used. Do not use any bubble baths. After bathing, the skin should be patted, not rubbed dry, and a moisturizer should be applied immediately to the entire body.

Ointments and creams are better than lotions and should be fragrance and dye free. Vaseline also works well but should be used when the skin is still slightly damp.

Avoid irritants that worsen eczema. Common irritants are allowing the skin to become too sweaty or cold, bubble baths, perfumed or scented soaps, and detergents. If food or environmental allergies are a trigger, avoiding these may also help.

If eczema is suspected, see your pediatrician for a diagnosis first. Not all rashes are eczema and may need to be treated differently. There are also prescription medications available for eczema that continues to be a problem despite moisturizing.