What Is Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)?

What Is Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)?

The hallmarks of Eczema or atopic dermatitis are dry, red patches of skin that become itchy and rough to the touch. Affected skin might crack, become thickened, or inflamed. Some common symptoms that can help you distinguish eczema from similar conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis are.

  • Dry skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Irritated skin
  • Redness (red or pink skin in lighter skin tones and brown or purple in darker skin tones)
  • Raised bumps
  • Crusty, flaky skin
  • Oozing skin (in severe cases)

There are various types of eczema, including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

What Causes Eczema?

The exact cause of eczema is still not known, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of factors, such as

  • Genetics
  • Skin barrier dysfunction
  • Environmental factors

Our skin is the barrier that is responsible for retaining the body’s moisture and protecting the body against outside irritants and allergens. But when this barrier is not working properly the skin becomes dry more easily and prone to itching and irritation caused by eczema.

Who Is At Risk?

Atopic eczema knows no age…it affects babies, children, and adults, but most people develop Eczema before age 5. Although it affects 30% of people in the United States, Eczema is often confused with other skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap, since they can both begin in infancy. 

Despite overlapping symptoms, the conditions are distinct and require different treatments. It’s helpful to know that Cradle Cap presents a brownish/yellow crust on the scalp, forehead, and eyebrows, beginning in the first several months of life. Learn more about the symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis from Dr. Eddie.

People who have a family history of the following conditions are at a higher risk of developing eczema.

  • Hay fever
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Dermatitis 

Food allergies can also increase the risk of developing eczema, especially in young children.

Are Atopic Dermatitis And Baby Eczema Same?

Baby Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis are different names used to describe the same condition. Chances are you’ll hear “Baby Eczema” and “Atopic Dermatitis” used interchangeably by your pediatrician or dermatologist. Both atopic dermatitis and baby eczema share common symptoms such as itchiness, rashes, and dry patches.

How can I tell if a baby rash is Eczema?

Newborns get many rashes that come and go. 

  • milia (white spots on the nose)
  • neonatal acne (red bumps on cheeks)
  • erythema toxicum (ant bite-looking bumps all over the body) 
  • diaper rash

are just a few. But when Eczema shows up, it doesn’t go away within a few days or weeks. An eczema rash can appear as purple, brown, gray, pink, or red patches, varying with skin tone, and is often seen in infants, children, and adults. Unlike other rashes, it is associated with allergic conditions and differs from psoriasis.

It helps to know where the “Eczema Zones” tend to be. 

Eczema In Infancy

With babies up to 2 years old, atopic dermatitis typically shows up on cheeks and on the opposite sides of joints — the part of your elbow you would rest on a table when leaning forward or the part of the knees that touch the ground when kneeling on the floor. In this age group, a rash might bubble up and sometimes leak a small amount of fluid, and extreme itchiness can interfere with an infant’s sleep. Atopic dermatitis in infants can cause dry skin, and in some cases, very dry skin that may lead to blisters.

Eczema In Childhood

In kids aged 2 until puberty, rashes tend to appear in the creases of the elbows/knees. Other common “Eczema Zones” include the neck, wrists, ankles, groin, and behind the ears. They may also experience bumpy rashes that become lighter or darker and skin thickening.

Eczema In Adults

In adults, atopic dermatitis tends to show up in the folds of the knees and elbows, and the affected skin can have a thickened, leathery feel to it. Adults with eczema may experience very dry, thickened skin, which can appear in various areas of the body such as the face, knees, wrists, hands, or feet.

Can it Get Infected with Skin Infections?

The constant itchiness of Eczema in children is particularly hard for parents to manage because excessive scratching can occasionally lead to infection. You can tell the skin has become infected when the red patches become extra-red and raw. 

Infection can also trigger blisters that may ooze or “weep” a clear fluid. These blisters can then get covered in a honey-colored crust. Some parents put mittens or socks on their baby’s hands to avoid harsh scratching.

Is Eczema Contagious?

While infected skin might look bad, it is good to know Eczema is not contagious. Your baby can’t “catch Eczema” nor infect anyone else. Eczema is a condition that definitely can run in the family.

More than half of children with Eczema will outgrow the condition. Those who continue to have eczema flare-ups as adults will discover their rashes take on different characteristics and could go for years without symptoms.

Eczema Treatment and Managing Flare – Up

While there is no “cure” for eczema, there are treatments that can manage and ease itching and irritation associated with it. Managing eczema flares and inflamed skin is crucial for effective treatment.

Essential for any baby, child, or adult plagued by Eczema rashes is gentle skincare that takes into account every single thing that gets put on the skin.


Cleansing is the first and most important step in managing eczema. 

  • At bath time, use lukewarm water and irritant-free cleansers. 
  • Soaps (and lotions) with fragrances and dyes can worsen irritated skin. 
  • Ideal bath time cleansers include products like Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Daily Shampoo & Body Wash for eczema, a pediatrician-formulated cleanser specifically designed for itchy, dry, irritated skin.

Whatever you select, you want a pure cleanser without fragrances, dyes, parabens, or sulfates. Bath time should soothe and hydrate, not irritate.


The next step in your skincare routine should be regularly moisturizing eczema skin with dermatologist-approved body wash, oils, creams, or ointments, which are available over the counter. 

Moisturize your skin at least twice daily, and if you suspect your skin is becoming dry more often, you can increase the frequency of use. Make sure to use an eczema cream that is free from any harsh chemicals so it does not further irritate the skin.

Try Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Moisturizing Cream. It is infused with glycerin and licorice root extract to help soothe dry, itchy, eczema-prone skin.

If your eczema does not get better with a proper skincare routine, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, non-steroidal prescription creams, wet wrap therapy (in more severe cases), and anti-itch medications. Some adults get prescribed light therapy by their dermatologists.


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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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What does Eczema look like?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, causes skin discoloration–red ( in light skin tones) or purple (on darker skin tones). And on top of that discoloration there is dry, itchy, flaky patches on the skin.

Is eczema contagious?

Eczema is not contagious; it is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. It is not caused by any virus, bacteria, or other infectious agents, so it will not be spread from one person to another, either through direct contact or any other means.

What is the cure for eczema?

Eczema can not be permanently cured as it is a skin condition that may come and go with flare-ups, but it can be managed with the help of Happy Cappy Two-Step Eczema Skincare Routine. It is formulated to soothe itchy, flaky, dry, eczema-prone skin.

Does eczema hurt babies?

If their eczema is not managed correctly, it will leave dry spots that can be very itchy which can lead to vigorous scratching and discomfort and lack of sleep. So, diagnosing and managing eczema as soon as possible is essential.

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