Atopic Dermatitis most commonly referred to as eczema is a chronic skin condition that is hereditary. Babies may be born with it or it may occur much later in life. The condition is inherited as one of the atopic diseases. These include asthma and hay fever as well and some individuals may suffer from all three.

Eczema may initially appear as a rash on the cheeks of babies. The rash may be triggered by food, pollens, environmental conditions and stress. Some individuals my only have an outbreak at certain times of the year. Some individuals may not have any symptoms in certain parts of the country or world until they move to a new location. Atlanta, GA is notorious for this.

The first sign of the condition may be itching. The back of the neck and the bends of the elbows and knees are favorite sights. Infants and younger children are more apt to have a rash on the bony parts of the joints. A mild redness or shedding of the skin may be present initially as well. The most common appearance of the rash is thickening of the skin or lichenification. Pigmented skin will also get darker. This is caused by repeated scratching. The face and any part of the body may be affected.

I am not a believer in doing allergy tests for eczema because the caregivers can usually observe what foods causes a reaction or what times of the year the condition is worse. Avoidance of the offending foods is the best treatment for those individuals. Wool should definitely be avoided.

The best treatments for eczema are corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are derivatives of cortisone, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands of the body. These are not to be confused with the “steroids” that athletes’ take.

Hydrocortisone is the mildness corticosteroid that is available and can be purchased over the counter in .5% and 1% strengths. These may be helpful for very mild cases and are very safe to use even on the face and babies. It also comes in 2.5% prescription strength. Stronger external corticosteroid preparations may be necessary depending on the severity of the condition. In the most severe cases oral corticosteroids may be required for short periods of time.

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