Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

pdfASCIA FAST FACTS Eczema 201872.23 KB

  1. Eczema (atopic dermatitis)Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) affects the skin, causing redness, itching and sometimes infections. When eczema worsens this is called an eczema flare. Usually there is no single trigger for an eczema flare.
  1. In people with eczema the skin does not retain moisture very well, which causes it to dry out easily. This makes the skin more open to allergens and irritants. These can trigger the skin to release chemicals that make the skin itchy. Scratching itchy skin causes more chemicals to be released, making the skin feel more itchy.  This "scratch and itch" cycle can cause discomfort, disrupt sleep and affect quality of life.
  1. Eczema is a chronic health problem that affects many people of all ages, but is most common in infants:
  • Infantile eczema occurs in around 1 in 5 children under 2 years of age. It usually starts in the first 6 months and often improves between 2 to 5 years of age.  
  • Childhood eczema may follow or can start for the first time between 2 to 4 years of age. Rashes and dryness are usually in elbow creases, behind the knees, across ankles, or on face, ears and neck.
  • Adult eczema symptoms occur in similar areas to childhood eczema. Over time this can cause rough, hard and thickened skin. Eczema tends to improve in middle life and is unusual in the elderly.
  1. Many people with eczema already have other allergies or can develop other allergies, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma, food allergy or dust mite allergy. Studies have reported that up to 3 in 10 infants with eczema and a family history of allergy will develop food allergy and up to 4 in 10 infants will develop asthma and/or allergic rhinitis. 
  1. Managing eczema well may help prevent allergies from developing in some people. Some research has shown that managing eczema well in infants may reduce the chance of children developing food allergy.
  1. Eczema can be well managed, and the following steps may be used as a guide:
    Maintain skin every day regardless of whether eczema is present by applying moisturiser twice each day to the face and body. Bleach baths may be used as directed to prevent infected eczema.
    - Avoid triggers and irritants of eczema where possible, such as allergens, soap, perfumes, overheating and exposure to prickly fabrics.
    - Treat eczema flares or severe eczema (and continue to maintain skin every day) by applying cortisone and non-steroid creams or ointments as soon as there is an eczema flare. Wet dressings may be used on the body or head and a cool compress can be used on the face. New immune modulating treatments for eczema continue to be developed.
    Treat infections using prescribed treatments as directed.
    - It is important to see your doctor if eczema does not improve within a week or if unwell with a fever.

For more information, visit ;

Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia and Allergy New Zealand are patient support organisations that provide updates and advice for people with allergies.

© ASCIA 2018

ASCIA is the peak professional body of clinical immunology/allergy specialists in Australia and New Zealand

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Postal address: PO Box 450 Balgowlah NSW 2093 Australia

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by ASCIA members and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner. Development of this document is not funded by any commercial sources and is not influenced by commercial organisations.

Content updated November 2018

Mod ASCIA Member
Donate to AIFA
go to NAS website

ASCIA is the peak professional body of clinical immunology and allergy in Australia and New Zealand
ASCIA promotes and advances the study and knowledge of allergy and other immune diseases

Quick Links


ASCIA is a registered trademark of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. All content is subject to copyright for the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Read more...

The content for the website is developed and approved by ASCIA Committee and ASCIA Working Party Members. Read more...

Disclaimer I Privacy

The ASCIA website is intended for use by ASCIA members, health professionals and the general public. The content provided is for education, communication and information purposes only and is not intended to replace or constitute medical advice or treatments. Read more...

ASCIA respects your privacy. Read our privacy policy here...

Sponsors | Advertising

ASCIA does not endorse products from sponsoring organisations, nor is it influenced by sponsoring organisations with regard to the content of education programs and websites. 

The ASCIA website does not accept advertising. Any link to a third-party website does not imply any endorsement by ASCIA.


This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information.Verify here.