Eczema (dermatitis) is a common reason for a baby or child’s skin to be just dry or red as well (inflamed). Eczema often runs in families as a part of the ‘atopic’ group of conditions that also include asthma, hayfever and food allergies. You do not inherit (pass down) a specific ‘atopy’ but more the tendency for ‘atopy’ which will be different in different people.

Eczema has many triggers that include:

  • Irritants such as soap, clothing (wool, polyester), cigarette smoke, chlorine in swimming pools
  • Changes in the climate  such as drier air or temperature (too cold or too hot)
  • Environmental allergens such as house dust mite, moulds
  • When a child has a viral illness
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress and anxiety can cause flares
  • Rarely food
    • Immediate reactions ( < 1 hour ) after eating
    • Delayed reactions (4-6 hours) after eating with a flare of eczema.


  • Dryness: moisturising cream (which can be bought at pharmacies) or emollients which can be applied 4-5 times a day when the skin is very dry and once or twice a day when skin feels normal
  • Redness (Inflammation): steroid creams are needed
  • Infection: due to bacteria may need antibiotics and if your child skin is very red all over OR showing white head spots OR is broken down in lots of places
  • Itch: this is due to skin dryness and inflammation and needs treatment as above. Occasionally you can use antihistamines but these should ideally not be used every day

Further Information

Eczema society booklet for eczema. 

Picture credit: Skin Deep is a project developed by two groups in the UK who aim to produce resources that educate professionals and public about skin presentations in children with different skin colours.

Where should you seek help?

Self Care

Local Pharmacist

Health Visitors

School Nurses

NHS 111

Accident and Emergency