Atopic dermatitis


  • Also known as atopic eczema
  • A chronic type of inflammatory skin disease affecting many children and adults
  • Occasionally accompanied by asthma and/or hay fever. Patients develop a cutaneous hyperreactivity to environmental triggers.
  • Cause is not known, but believed to be due to an interaction between susceptibility genes, the environment, defective skin barrier function, and immunologic responses.

Dermatitis Types

Clinical Features

  • Atopic personal or family history, worse in winter, dry weather
  • Erythema, crusts, fissures, pruritus, excoriations, lichenification


  • blisters, crusts, exfoliations
  • Face, scalp, trunk, extensor surfaces, sparing of diaper area
  • 1st few months of life, resolving by age 2
  • Differentiate from impetigo (which may occur alongside)


  • ~4-12 years old
  • Wrists, ankles, antecubital and popliteal fossae


  • >12 years old
  • Dryness, thickening in flexor surfaces including antecubital and popliteal fossae, neck, hands[1]

Differential Diagnosis

Neonatal Rashes


  • Clinical diagnosis
    • Dry skin, erythematous papular lesions
    • Face most commonly involved; nose and diaper areas spared

Neonatal atopic dermatitis vs. seborrhoeic dermatitis

Category Neonatal atopic dermatitis Neonatal seborrhoeic dermatitis
Presentation1-2 months2-6 months
Puritic (fussiness)YesNo


  • Identify and eliminate triggers:
    • Alcohol based products
    • Fragrances and astringents
    • Excessive bathing
    • Allergens
  • Reduce drying of skin
    • Avoid lotions (high water and low oil content)
  • Liberal application of emollients (vaseline) immediately after bath (<5 min, skin should be pat dry instead of rubbing) [2]
    • Alternatives include petroleum jelly and Aquaphor
    • If using steroids, apply emollients on top of steroids
  • Topical steroids
  • Avoid fluoridinated steroids to thin skin areas such as face, groin, or axilla
  • Consider doxepin for recalcitrant pruritus[3][4]
    • 25-50mg PO nightly
    • Or topical doxepin cream 5% QID


  • Outpatient


See Also


  1. Leung DYM, Sicherer SH. Atopic Dermatitis (Atopic Eczema). In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Elsevier; 2020:(Ch) 170.
  2. Fang J. Dermatology. In: The Harriet Lane Handbook. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015
  3. Hercogova J. Topical anti-itch therapy. Dermatol Ther 18(4):341-3 (2005 Jul-Aug).
  4. Drake L, Cohen L, Gillies R, et al. Pharmakinetics of doxepin in subjects with pruritic atopic dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol 41(2):209-14 (1999 Aug).
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