Ask the CPCMG Pediatrician:
Atopic Dermatitis

My infant has been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis. What does this mean? I’m worried. 

Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a common condition of the skin in babies and young children. It is usually caused by allergy and it manifests itself as a rash on the skin. Dermatologists like to call atopic dermatitis the “itch” that rashes.

Babies can have many different types of rashes. Some rashes will quickly come and go. If your baby has a rash that persists or that seems to be bothering him you will want to visit your CPCMG pediatrician to discuss it. Atopic dermatitis, in particular, will appear on the cheeks of your baby’s face. You may find that your baby will rub their cheeks against the mattress or they may not sleep comfortable. Atopic dermatitis is also commonly found on the creases of his/her arms and legs. It is this rash pattern that helps your pediatrician make the correct diagnosis of atopic dermatitis.

Treatment of atopic dermatitis usually consists of topical cream or ointment. In recent history, the dermatologists have recommended the use of Vaseline as an ointment to relieve the rash. In addition to ointments, you can use unscented creams/ointments like Cetaphil®, Aquaphor®, Aveeno®, or Eucerin®. You can use them generously on a daily basis.

In addition, you should bathe your child with unscented soaps. Dove®, Cetaphil®, Cerave® and Basis® are good options. Also, when bathing your baby, use warm but not hot water. Hot water can often make these allergic rashes worse.

In addition to using good unscented soaps and creams, you should also make sure you use unscented laundry detergent. Dreft® and Free & Clear Detergent are good options. In addition, you can use the double rinse option on your washing machine to make sure that all residual detergent is rinsed away. In addition, I usually do not recommend using fabric softener for young infants.

If your baby has a worsening skin rash, your CPCMG pediatrician may order testing to determine if your child has a food allergy. Some babies are allergic to some component of breast milk or formula. However, it is important that you discuss this with your CPCMG pediatrician prior to eliminating any nutrients from your infants diet.

If the skin rash does not improve with topical cream/ointment, your CPCMG pediatrician may prescribe a topical steroid cream. It is important to use the lowest strength steroid cream on your baby’s skin. This recommendation is particularly important for treating the skin on your baby’s face. It is very rare for a skin infection to develop if your baby is really scratching the rash. If this happens, your CPCMG pediatrician will start oral antibiotics to clear the infection. However, this is not the typical course of atopic dermatitis.

The bottom line is that atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a skin condition that will have flares of rashes. They are usually easily treated. With careful consideration to the care of your child’s skin care, you will ensure that your child’s skin will remain clear and comfortable.