What is eczema?

Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) is a dry skin condition. It is a common condition and usually first presents itself in childhood, often before 1 year old. Eczema belongs in the family of ‘atopic’ conditions, along with asthma and hay fever. These conditions commonly occur together and often run in the family, and are due to an immune hypersensitivity to normally harmless environmental objects like pollen, dander and dust.

What are the symptoms of eczema?

The word eczema comes from the Greek word “ekzein”, meaning “to boil”, and that’s often what it can feel like!

The key symptoms of eczema is a rash. The rash usually is:

  • Itchy

  • Red and inflamed

  • Scaly or leathery skin

  • Dry underlying skin

  • Sores may be oozing or crusting

  • Usually in the ‘flexural’ surfaces of the body – in elbow crease and behind knees. In infants, it is often on the face or scalp

However, there are many different forms and variations of eczema, and not all rashes fit the above pattern.

What can trigger eczema?

Potential triggers are wide and vary between individuals, although common triggers are:

  • Heat

  • Dry skin

  • Certain soaps, detergents or fabrics

  • Food allergies/intolerances

  • Environmental allergens eg dust mites, pollen or animal fur

  • Viruses/other infections

It’s important to remember that eczema is not contagious!

How can I manage eczema?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema. However, as we age many of us will find that symptoms become less severe and many will have outgrown their eczema by adulthood.

In the meantime, certain steps can be taken to keep the skin healthy and itch-free:

  • Avoid potentially irritating products: soaps, detergents, woollen/acrylic clothing, pet fur

  • Use a fragrance-free moisturiser regularly to keep the skin from becoming dry

  • Keep your child cool and dressed appropriately

  • Distraction techniques for children such as cool, wet towels

If these measures do not relieve symptoms, it may be worth discussing you/your child’s symptoms with your GP, who may be able to organise stronger prescription cream (corticosteroids) for eczema flares. If this continues to be ineffective, it may be necessary to see a dermatologist.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.


Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, 2018, Fact Sheet: Eczema [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Eczema/ (Accessed 3 June 2018)

National Eczema Society, 2018, What is Eczema? [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.eczema.org/download-factsheets—eczema (Accessed 3 June 2018)

National Eczema Association, 2018, What is Eczema? [ONLINE] Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/ (Accessed 3 June 2018)

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