Eczema In Children

Eczema In Children

Eczema is a dry skin condition. You can usually control your child's eczema by using lots of moisturiser, a bath once a day and using steroids when your child's skin has active eczema.

How to care for eczema in 3 easy steps

There are 3 really important steps when caring for your child with eczema: moisturiser (the more often you use it, the better); bathing (bathing once a day cleans the skin and prepares the skin for creams after the bath); steroids (these are really important if your child's skin has active eczema and is red and itchy).
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Key points to remember about eczema in children

  • eczema is a dry, itchy skin condition
  • you can usually control your child's eczema by using lots of moisturiser, a bath once a day and using steroids when your child's skin has active eczema
  • avoid things which irritate your child's skin, especially soap
  • go to your family doctor as soon as possible if your child's eczema doesn't improve after treatment or becomes infected

What is eczema?

  • eczema is a dry skin condition that causes the skin to become red (inflamed) and itchy
  • it usually begins early in childhood

Eczema on the body of a baby

Eczema on a baby's hand

What causes eczema?

The skin of people with eczema has cracks in the barrier so is more sensitive to irritants (such as soap) and more at risk of infection.

A child is more likely to develop eczema if there is a family history of eczema, asthma or hayfever.

Food allergies do not cause eczema although children with eczema have a higher risk of developing food allergy.

How long can eczema last?

You can control eczema with treatment and by avoiding 'triggers'.

You can control eczema with treatment and by avoiding things which can trigger your child's eczema.

There is a good chance that your child's eczema will improve or disappear as they get older.

What puts my child at risk of getting eczema?

  • eczema occurs in about 15 to 20 in 100 children
  • children with eczema are more likely to develop allergies
  • eczema runs in families and often goes hand in hand with asthma and hayfever

What are the signs and symptoms of eczema?

  • if your child has eczema, their skin feels dry and rough to touch, and it is itchy
  • their skin can become inflamed (looks red or darker in kids with dark skin), and may even get infected (pustules, yellow crusts), particularly with scratching
  • in babies, the rash often involves their face
  • in older children, the skin in the creases of their knees and elbows, around their neck and on their hands is often affected
  • in some children, the skin over their entire body is affected
  • at times your child's skin will look good and at other times it gets worse - this is part of eczema and not necessarily caused by bad care

Eczema on a baby's face

Eczema on a  child's arm

How can I manage my child's eczema?

You can easily manage most eczema at home but it needs care every day. There is no cure for eczema - just good management.

See the eczema care videos

3 easy stepsmoisturisers, bathing and steroids...

Video thumbnail image showing hands

Video thumbnail image showing family ina  consultation with a doctor

Video thumbnail image showing 2 children in bath and mum pouring water over one child's head

Video thumbnail image showing a mother and her child

Print out an eczema action plan

You can print out this Eczema care plan (PDF, 287KB) and take it with you when you see your child's doctor. Ask the doctor to mark on the diagram where you should put moisturiser and topical steroids on your child's skin.

Thumbnail eczema care plan

Use bleach baths to help prevent infection

Antiseptic baths 2 times a week can help prevent infection and improve eczema. Find out how to use bleach baths.

See when and how to use bleach baths for your child with eczema

Avoid triggers and treat infection

Stay cool

Getting too hot from clothing or heating can make eczema worse - stay cool.

Avoid soap and fragrances

Soap and fragrances are the most common triggers of eczema. Only use skin care products designed for eczema. Many are available on prescription from your doctor or nurse prescriber.

Prevent skin infections

Eczema is made worse by infection such as from:

  • school sores (impetigo)
  • the cold sore virus which can cause severe painful infection of eczema

Avoid contact with cold sores. See your family doctor urgently if your child gets an infection from cold sores.

Find out more about school sores and what to do if your child gets them

Removing foods from your child's diet does not usually help eczema

Removing foods from your child's diet does not usually help eczema and can be dangerous, leading to anaphylaxis.

Please talk with your doctor about this.

Are there likely to be any complications of eczema?

It's important to control your child's eczema - uncontrolled eczema can lead to poor sleep which can have long-term effects on learning and behaviour.

Children with eczema are more likely to get skin infections.

Eczema makes the skin dry and cracked and increases the chance of infection by bacteria and viruses (especially the cold sore virus). Infected eczema may be wet, crusted or painful. See your doctor for treatment.

If your child's eczema gets worse or becomes infected, you will need to take them to your doctor. Sometimes, a hospital stay may be necessary.

It's important to control your child's eczema. Uncontrolled eczema can lead to poor sleep which can have long-term effects on learning and behaviour.

Baby with infected eczema

Check all eczema content

See all the content on eczema

Acknowledgements

This content has been developed and approved by the Clinical Reference Group for the Paediatric Society NZ's Eczema Clinical Network.

Images of eczema on this page have been reproduced from the website of the New Zealand Dermatological Society.

This page last reviewed 02 October 2019.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it