What is Eczema?

Eczema is a name used to describe a group of conditions where the skin becomes red, itchy and inflamed.

Eczema comes in many forms and can affect any age group, including children. In New Zealand, up to 1 in 3 babies have eczema by 12 months of age. Most will eventually grow out of it by adulthood. 

There are many types of eczema, but the most common is atopic eczema (or atopic dermatitis).

Typical signs and symptoms of eczema

 In all forms of eczema, the affected skin is very itchy, dry, red and swollen. The symptoms can occur as a brief reaction and be present for only a few hours or days. In other cases, symptoms may persist over time.

Eczema usually starts on the face, followed by the hands and feet. Older children tend to be affected in the elbow and knee creases, neck, wrists, ankles and feet.  The hands and feet tend to be the most commonly affected areas in adults.

Eczema can be caused or 'triggered' by a number of different things

There is no single cause for eczema, it can be triggered or aggravated by a number of different factors including:

  • Irritation from soap, fragrances, cosmetics and detergents
  • Contact with allergens
  • Overheating
  • Dry skin
  • Certain foods
  • Emotional stress

A child is more likely to develop eczema if there is a family history of eczema, asthma or hayfever.

Helpful hints for eczema sufferers




(everyday up to 10 min)


Use warm water


Pat the skin dry


Keep fingernails short


Cleanse with
soap substitutes





Use hot water


Rub the skin dry


Itch the skin


Wash with soap


Other things to do

  • Use all creams as prescribed by your doctor
  • Use antiseptic baths (if recommended by your doctor)
  • Moisturise, Moisturise, Moisturise (2-3 times a day, best just after bath to lock in moisture)