Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin conditions that usually begins in childhood. It is a chronic, inherited, inflammatory skin condition that is not contagious. The affected skin is dry, red and itchy and sometimes these areas can become cracked, weepy and then scab over.
The skin is a barrier from the outside world and also helps retains water within our body. The skin barrier is not as strong for people with eczema, which means it is more easily irritated and moisture is more easily lost, which causes the skin to dry out.
Eczema can involve any part of the surface of the skin. Babies usually have a red, dry rash on their face, which can also appear on their scalp, behind their ears, on their body and arms and legs. For toddlers and older children, the rash is often in the skin creases around the knees, wrists, elbows and ankles.
Eczema can run in the family, and can be related to asthma, allergies and hay fever. Eczema can be triggered by lots of things, including:
- Dry skin
- Becoming overheated
- Irritation from soaps, detergents, fabrics or other chemicals
- Food allergies or intolerances
- Allergies to dust mites, plant pollens or animal fur
- Viruses and other infections.