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Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema—an itchy skin rash where allergens may be a contributor. Atopic dermatitis (also called atopic eczema) mostly occurs in infants and young children. Children who have atopic dermatitis may be more prone to develop other allergic conditions such as allergy-induced asthma and allergic rhinitis. This is called the “allergic march.” It cannot be spread to others. Children with atopic eczema also tend to have family members with atopic eczema, asthma and/or seasonal allergies.
Atopic dermatitis is triggered by a number of causes, including dry skin, irritants like wool and possibly allergens. The condition may be triggered by foods such as eggs, milk, wheat, soy, peanuts or fish.
The classic symptom of atopic dermatitis is itchy skin. The skin is dry, flaky and rough, and there may be small bumps on the skin. As your child scratches the skin, the rash can become infected, causing it to ooze or leak fluid. The rash may form crusts or scaly patches.
About 1 in 5 children get atopic dermatitis. Most cases develop before 5 years of age. While atopic dermatitis may persist into adulthood, it often gets better as children get older. Different areas of the body are affected at different ages:
Doctors at Riley at IU Health diagnose atopic dermatitis by reviewing your child's health history and conducting a physical exam. If you have noticed that there is a specific trigger or cause for your child’s skin irritation, please tell the doctor about this during the appointment.
Your child's doctor may also recommend:
There is no cure for atopic dermatitis, but certain treatments can help relieve the symptoms. In many cases, your child may need to use a prescription steroid ointment to relieve itching. Your child’s doctor may also prescribe an antihistamine to help with sleep.
Other ways to relieve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:
For many children, stress can trigger an eczema flare-up. Talk to the doctor about ways to help your child manage stress at home or at school.
Learn more about atopic dermatitis by visiting the trusted websites below.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
Learn more about atopic dermatitis and other types of skin allergy.
Learn more about treatments for atopic dermatitis.
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