Skip to Content
Diagnosed with PsA? Learn about biologics >

Atopic Dermatitis


  • Atopic dermatitis (der-muh-TI-tus) is also called eczema (EGG-zih-muh). Eczema is an itchy, red skin rash. You are more likely to have it if you or another family member has eczema, hayfever, or asthma. Certain conditions and substances called "triggers" may cause your skin to break out. Some triggers are dry skin, stress, and infections. Others are very hot or very cold temperatures, and sweating. Eczema may also be triggered by allergies and things that irritate the skin. These include rough, scratchy clothing or bedding, and foods. It includes products that have dyes, preservatives (chemicals that keep products fresh), and fragrances (perfumes) in them.
  • Eczema happens more often in babies and young children, but people can get eczema at any age. Although there is no cure for eczema, it can be treated. Treatment includes staying away from things that cause your eczema flare-ups, and using moisturizers and special medicines. Eczema can be a short or long-term problem, and may last days, months, or years. Many children who get eczema at a young age stop having it by the time they are a teenager. Some people get eczema when they become a teenager or older. You may have problems with eczema all of your life.



  • Keep a written list of the medicines you take, the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list of your medicines or the pill bottles when you see your caregivers. Learn why you take each medicine. Ask your caregiver for information about your medicine. Do not take any medicines, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, or food supplements without first talking to caregivers.
  • Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. Call your caregiver if you think your medicines are not helping or if you feel you are having side effects. Do not quit taking your medicines until you discuss it with your caregiver.
  • Antibiotics (an-ti-bi-AH-tiks): This may be given to help your body fight an infection caused by a germ called bacteria (bak-TEER-e-uh). Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any antibiotics.
  • Antihistamine (an-ti-HISS-tuh-mean): This medicine may help decrease itching. It may also help you sleep better at night.
  • Steroids (STAIR-oids) and immunomodulators (ih-mew-no-MOD-u-la-tors): These medicines may help decrease redness and itching so your rash can heal. Use them only as directed. Gently dot or rub creams or ointments into your rash. Rubbing them in well may help the medicine work better. Do not stop taking this medicine unless your caregiver tells you to stop. Stopping this medicine without a caregiver's OK may cause problems with your health.
  • Tar preparations: These may also help your rash heal. These may come in the form of shampoos, creams, or bath oil. Tar preparations have a strong smell and may stain clothing. Put these on at night and wash them off in the morning. Wear old pajamas that are OK to stain. Cover bedding to prevent staining.

What can I do every day to help heal my skin or prevent another eczema rash?

  • Try not to scratch or rub your rash. Scratching and rubbing may damage your skin or cause it to become infected.
  • Keep your skin moist. Use medicine and the ointments, creams, or lotions your caregiver suggests. The greasier ointments and creams may keep your skin more moist.
  • Protect your hands. Always use hand lotion after washing your hands. Only wash your hands when necessary. Wear gloves when using harsh cleansers or washing dishes. Use vinyl or cotton-lined gloves to protect your hands. You may also put on cotton gloves, then put rubber gloves over them.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures. Hot weather and sweating may cause your eczema to be itchier and more irritated. In hot weather, wear soft, loose clothing like cotton or a cotton blend. Stay in air-conditioning as much as possible. Avoid activities that cause you to sweat a lot. Cold weather can dry out your skin and make it feel uncomfortable. Wear warm clothes, but do not wear rough, stratchy clothes such as wool, polyester, and other synthetic fabrics.
  • Do not use substances that bother your skin. Ask your caregiver to help you choose the right every day products to use. Products may include soaps, make-up, hair products, lotions, and sunscreens. Always check product labels. Make sure the products you buy do not have substances in them that irritate your skin. Learn which substances or conditions at your school or workplace may be causing your eczema.
  • Use special medicines given to you by your caregiver. Use them exactly as directed. Gently dot or rub special creams or ointments into your rash. Rubbing them in well may help them to work better.

How can I take care of my skin when I bathe or shower?

  • Bathing too often can dry out your skin. Bathe every two to three days or less if your skin is too dry. Take sponge baths in between your regular baths or showers. Use warm (not hot) water. Use plain water or lotion to bathe your rash. Use mild soap or cleanser to clean skin areas that do not have a rash. Ask your caregiver which soaps, lotions, and cleansers are best to use when bathing.
  • Soak in the bath tub for 15 minutes. This may give your skin the chance to absorb (soak in) moisture from the bath water. Put unscented bath oil in your water. Never use bubble bath. Pat your skin dry with a towel. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing. Always put oil or lotion on your skin right after your bath. Do this while your skin is still slightly wet. This will cause more moisture to stay in your skin.


Eczema is a skin problem that you may have all of your life. To learn about controlling eczema at home and in your workplace, contact the following:

  • National Eczema Association for Science and Education
    4460 Redwood Hwy, Suite 16-D
    San Rafael , CA 94903-1953
    Phone: 1- 415 - 499-3474
    Phone: 1- 800 - 818-7546
    Web Address:
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
    Phone: 1- 800 - 356-4674
    Web Address:


  • You have a fever.
  • You cannot sleep because you have bad skin itching.
  • Your skin rash is not better after treatment. Call if your rash is worse.
  • Your skin rash has pus coming from it or has soft yellow scabs on it.
  • Your rash flares up after you have been around someone with cold sores (fever blisters).

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Atopic Dermatitis (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes

Symptom checker

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference