Atopic dermatitis is a common, chronic skin condition in infants and children. It causes dry and itchy skin. It will usually first appear between 3 to 6 months of age.
The exact causes of atopic dermatitis in children are not known. However, some things that are linked to the condition can include:
- Genetics. This skin problem can be passed down from parents to their children. Children are more at risk of having atopic dermatitis if they have family members who have atopic dermatitis or have allergies.
- Immune system. Immune systems that are not fully developed can affect how much protection the skin will give.
- External factors. This can include children being exposed to winter weather, using hot water to bathe, harsh cleansers, or being in hot and dry temperatures.
Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can appear and disappear or occur most of the time or all of the time. It can affect any area of the body. Symptoms will usually affect the face, neck, scalp, elbows, and knees in infants. In children, symptoms usually affect the skin inside of the elbows, on the back of the knees, around the neck, around the mouth, on the wrists, ankles and hands.
Symptoms can occur a little differently in each child. They include:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Severely itchy skin
- Redness, inflammation and swelling
- Thickened skin
- Pale skin on the face
- Small bumps that are raised can become crusty and leak out fluid if scratched.
- Darkened skin on the eyelids or around the eyes
- Rough bumps on the face, upper arms and thighs
- Skin changes around the mouth, eyes or ears
- Raised, red areas (hives)
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can look like other health conditions, so make sure that your child sees a skin doctor get a proper diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider or dermatologist will ask you about your child’s symptoms and health history. They could also ask you if you or other family members have atopic dermatitis, asthma or other nasal allergies like hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Your healthcare provider will then examine your child to look for visual signs of atopic dermatitis. There will be no specific test to diagnose atopic dermatitis and is usually not needed.
There is no cure for atopic dermatitis. Treatment depends on what symptoms your child is experiencing, their age and how severe their condition is. The treatment is meant to help with itching inflammation, add moisture and prevent infection.