Eczema in Children

Mount Sinai’s pediatric dermatology specialists understand that every child and every case of eczema is different. Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema is a chronic condition involving skin that becomes itchy, red, and dry. It is a common condition that most frequently affects children.

At the Mount Sinai Health System’s Center for Excellence in Eczema, our physician-scientists lead the way in atopic dermatitis research and treatments for patients of all ages and with all skin types. Because eczema symptoms can change as a child grows, we develop a long-term relationship with our patients, adapting their treatment regimen as they age. Understanding the daily challenges eczema can cause—such as ongoing discomfort and inability to sleep—our team is skilled in treating complex cases that haven’t responded to treatment.

Causes of Eczema in Children

It is thought that eczema is caused by genetic factors that weaken the skin barrier, allowing moisture to escape and bacteria and viruses to enter more easily. There may also be environmental factors at play, with triggers like dust mites prompting the immune system to overreact.

Most cases of eczema appear by the age of five, and a large percentage of children develop symptoms in the first few years of life.

Symptoms of Eczema in Children

Eczema looks different at different ages. In infants a rash normally starts around the cheeks and mouth. Infants may also develop cradle cap.

As a child gets older, a rash may appear in the neck, folds of elbows and knees, wrists, and ankles. School-aged kids through teenagers may develop warts or skin infections more easily. Older kids may also experience staph overgrowth. In addition, patients with different skin tones can experience discoloration in which they lose pigmentation as infants but have more pigmentation as they get older.

Treatments for Children and in Babies

At the Center for Excellence in Eczema at the Mount Sinai Health System, our dermatologists draw on the newest treatments and research to personalize the best plan for each child. We have extensive experience treating children of all ages into adulthood, as well as patients with different skin tones.

We start by identifying a regimen including cleansers, moisturizers, and medications that the child is comfortable with, and we work with parents to develop a care plan. In addition, we help families avoid triggers, like wool, harsh soaps, emotional stress, and excessive bathing.

Each child receives the care of multidisciplinary team members who work together to identify triggers. We also offer specialized diagnostics such as patch testing, which identifies environmental substances that might be triggering the allergic features in skin. For cases in which a food allergy or seasonal allergy is suspected, we also refer to allergists who are in the Center or members of the larger Mount Sinai Health System.

Because eczema symptoms and associated conditions change as a child grows, we modify their regimen with their age. For infants we may prescribe topical corticosteroids or non-steroidal treatments, and for severe cases we may use systemic medications. As children get older there are more options available, such as biologics, oral medications, and phototherapy (provided at Mount Sinai’s Dermatology Phototherapy Suite).

We are also actively investigating the causes of early onset eczema and new treatments through novel clinical trials, which gives our patients access to emerging therapies that may modify the course of the disease.