The Eczema Center
Eczema Primer

Chapter 1. Introduction
Eczematous rashes represent a large portion of the skin problems seen in infants and kids. The word eczema derives from the Greek meaning, "boil over" and is often used interchangeably by primary care physicians when referring to a condition called atopic dermatitis.

Skin doctors, however, tend to use the term eczema to describe many different skin problems, not just atopic dermatitis. Used this way, an "eczema rash" consists of redness, scaling, blisters, and crusting. When present for a long time (i.e., "chronic"), the skin with eczema can become harder, thicker, and even change color (getting lighter or darker depending on the person).

Atopic dermatitis, also called atopic eczema, is the most common of the chronic skin conditions in childhood. Children with this condition tend to develop itchy and inflammed (i.e., red, warm, tender) skin, which can lead to a number of additional medical problems like skin infections and sleep problems. Atopic dermatitis happens in approximately 15 to 20% of all children and usually starts during the first year of life. Over the last few decades, more and more kids are being diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, though it is not clear why this is the case. Whatever the reason, it is important to recognize this condition and distinguish it from the other common childhood skin problems, which are many.

In total, atopic dermatitis is the most common chronic skin condition seen in children. While atopic dermatitis may be difficult to distinguish from other common childhood rashes, knowing what it looks like, where on the body it is found, and some other problems that can be associated with it can help a person better identify this disease.