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Eczema “An Itchy Nuisance”

By Jeannie Johnson, R.N.

Most kids get itchy rashes at one time or another, but eczema can be a nuisance that may prompt scratching that can only make the problem worse. The term eczema refers to a number of different skin conditions in which the skin is red and irritated and occasionally results in small, fluid-filled bumps that become moist and ooze.

Signs and symptoms of eczema can vary widely. Between 2 and 6 months of age kids with eczema usually develop itchy, dry, red skin and small bumps on their cheeks, forehead or scalp. As the child gets older the rash may spread to the arms, legs or trunk and red, crusted, or open lesions may appear on any area affected. They may also experience circular, slightly raised, itchy and scaly rashes in the bends of the elbows, behind the knees or in the backs of the wrists and ankles. Find out more here.


Many scientists believe that eczema is inherited which means there is no way to totally prevent it. However, because specific triggers can make it worse, flare-ups can be prevented or improved by avoiding possible triggers such as:

  • Pollen, mold, dust
  • Animal dander
  • Dry winter air with little moisture
  • Allowing the skin to become too dry
  • Harsh soaps and detergents
  • Certain fabrics (such as wool or coarsely woven materials)
  • Certain skin care products, perfumes, and colognes.
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Some foods (which depends on the person, but dairy products and acidic foods like tomatoes seem to be common culprits)
  • Emotional stress
  • Excessive heat
  • Sweating


Topical corticosteroids, also called cortisone or steroid creams or ointments are commonly used to treat eczema. Your doctor should be the one to prescribe this type of treatment. These medicines are usually applied directly to the affected areas twice a day. Your doctor may also prescribe oral antihistamines.

You can help treat eczema by keeping your child’s skin from becoming dry and itchy and avoiding known triggers that cause flare-ups. Try to follow these suggestions:

  • Avoid giving your child frequent hot baths.
  • Use warm water with mild soaps or non-soap cleansers when bathing your child.
  • Avoid using scented soaps.
  • Ask your doctor if it is okay to use oatmeal soaking products to control itching.
  • Avoid excessive scrubbing and toweling after bathing your child. Gently pat dry.
  • Avoid dressing your child in harsh or irritating materials. Dress in soft clothes that “breathe” such as those made from cotton.
  • Apply moisturizing ointments (such as petroleum jelly), lotions, or creams to your child’s skin regularly and always within a few minutes of bathing (after a light towel dry). Even if your child is using a corticosteroid cream prescribed by the doctor, apply moisturizers or lotions frequently (2-3 times / day).
  • Apply cool compresses on the irritated areas of skin to ease itching. (Cool wet washcloth)
  • Keep your child’s fingernails short to minimize any skin damage caused by scratching.
  • Try having your child wear comfortable, light gloves to bed if scratching at night is a problem.
  • Help your child avoid becoming overheated, which can lead to flare-ups.
  • Eliminate any known allergens such as certain foods, dust, or pet dander.
  • Have your child drink plenty of water which adds moisture to the skin.

If the rash is severe and not responding to home treatment, if the rash spreads, or there is any evidence of fever or other infection, please contact your pediatrician.


American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Dermatology

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