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Eczema is very common. In fact, over 30 million Americans have some form of eczema — a condition that causes the skin to be red, itchy, dry and scaly.
Eczema generally appears in the first six months to five years of a child’s life. Babies usually develop it on their face (especially the cheeks and chin), but it can appear anywhere on the body (like the folds of the elbows, and/or knees) and symptoms may be different from one child to the next.
More often than not, symptoms go away as a child grows older, though some children will continue to experience eczema symptoms into adulthood. Adults can also develop eczema, even if they never had symptoms as a child. Either way, you should know that eczema is not contagious. You cannot “catch” it from another person, or give it to someone else.
Different types of eczema that you should know about:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Dyshidrotic eczema
- Hand eczema
- Nummular eczema
- Stasis dermatitis
All of these cause itching and redness, but some may also cause your skin to blister, “weep,” or peel. The most common type, which can also be severe and long-lasting, is atopic dermatitis (AD). It’s important to understand which type you or your child may have and also your symptoms and triggers, so that you can best treat and manage your eczema. But the only way to be sure that you or your child has eczema and which type, is to make an appointment with your doctor.
Atopic dermatitis is a type eczema that is chronic and inflammatory. Though the exact cause of AD is unknown, it happens when the immune system goes into overdrive. AD usually begins in childhood, often in the first six months of the life. When you or your child have AD, it might improve at times or it may get worse (when you may experience what’s called a “flare up”).
AD is part of what’s called the atopic triad, which includes two other allergic conditions (asthma and hay fever, which is also known as allergic rhinitis). Researchers believe that people who come from families with a history of AD, asthma and/ or hay fever are more likely to develop atopic dermatitis themselves.
Some common symptoms of AD:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Redness (erythema)
- Cracks behind the ears
- A rash on the cheeks, arms and legs
- Open, crusted or “weepy” sores (usually during flare-ups)