Symptoms and Diagnosis

Itching: Itching is the main and the most annoying symptom for eczema. It is a very itchy rash. Much of the skin damage comes from scratching and rubbing, which is particularly difficult for children who can’t control this.

Time of onset: Eczema usually begins during the first year of life and almost always within the first five years. It’s seldom present at birth, but it often comes on or develops during the first six weeks. This can help us to differentiate between eczema and other rashes which can start at any time. In addition, other rashes disappear within a few days to weeks. Eczema tends to persist. It may wax and wane, but it keeps coming back.

Location: In infants and small children, the rash is often present on the skin around the knees and elbows and the cheeks, places that are easy to scratch and rub. It may spread to all areas of the body, although moisture in the diaper region protects the skin barrier. Later in childhood, the rash is typically in the elbow and knee folds. Sometimes it only affects the hands, and at least 70 percent of people with AD have hand eczema at some time in their life. Rashes on the feet, scalp or behind the ears are other clues that might point to eczema. In teenagers and adults, the rash is often present in the creases of the wrists, elbows, knees or ankles and on the face or neck. It usually begins and ends during childhood, but some people continue to have the disease into adulthood, it will present as:
  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Hand dermatitis
  • Skin infections
The appearance of the rash is probably the least helpful clue, because it may be very different from one person to another. Scratch marks are often seen, along with scaly dry skin. The skin may become infected and show yellow crusts or little, pinpoint, pus-containing bumps. The skin also may thicken from long-term scratching and rubbing.

If other family members or relatives have AD, asthma or hay fever, the diagnosis of AD is more likely.

It is important to note that these symptoms may also indicate other conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis. The bottom line is, be sure to get your child diagnosed by a physician before assuming that the condition is AD.