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Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) - Fast Facts

This document has been developed by ASCIA, the peak professional body of clinical immunology/allergy specialists in Australia and New Zealand. ASCIA information is based on published literature and expert review, is not influenced by commercial organisations and is not intended to replace medical advice.

For patient or carer support contact Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia or Allergy New Zealand.

pdfASCIA Fast Facts Eczema 202379.37 KB

  1. 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 and usually improves by 5 years of age.
    - Childhood eczema may follow or starts from 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 also occur in these areas and can cause rough, hard and thickened skin.

  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.

  2. Studies show that infants with eczema and a family history of allergy are more likely to develop food allergy. Managing eczema well in infants may reduce the chance of children developing food allergy.

  3. Eczema can be well managed, and the following steps may be used as a guide:
    - Maintain skin every day by applying moisturiser twice a day to the face and body.
    - Avoid triggers and irritants such as allergens, soap, perfumes, overheating and exposure to prickly fabrics.
    - Treat eczema flares or severe eczema by applying creams or ointments as soon as there is an eczema flare. If prescribed, use immune modulating treatments for severe eczema.
    - Prevent and treat infections using prescribed treatments as directed.
    - Use immune modulating or other treatments, if prescribed for severe eczema. 
    - It is important to see your doctor if eczema does not improve within a week or if unwell with a fever.

© ASCIA 2023

Content updated June 2023

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