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What is eczema?

Eczema is a common skin rash that can go on for a long time and does not completely go away.  It usually begins in childhood, but can occur in adults as well.  The exact cause of eczema is unknown.

Photo of baby with eczema

What are symptoms of eczema?

Eczema can show up anywhere on the skin.  In babies, eczema is usually on the head and face.  Symptoms can be different for each person and include:

  • Dry skin that can harden or become scaly
  • Tiny itchy red bumps that can ooze, blister, or become infected if scratched.

Eczema can come and go, and can move around the body.  When it comes back, it is called a “flare-up”.  Flare-ups happen when something in the environment bothers your skin.  These are called “triggers”.  Triggers can be certain soaps, clothing fabric, certain foods, perfumes, stress, or sweating.

When something makes your skin itchy, it may cause you to scratch.  Try to avoid scratching as this makes things worse and causes pain.

How does it spread?

Eczema is not contagious.  You cannot catch it from other people.

How is eczema treated?

There is no cure for eczema, but there are ways to control flare-ups.  If you or your child gets these symptoms, see your health care provider.  Your health care provider might prescribe medications to control eczema and relieve the symptoms.  Infected eczema (yellow scabbing, pus, swollen skin, increasing pain) should be seen by a health care provider immediately.

The three main strategies to protect your skin and control eczema are:

  • Keep your skin hydrated:  During and after a flare-up, it is recommended to bathe or shower once a day for 5 to 10 minutes, in warm, clean water.  Use gentle, non-scented cleansers.  If eczema is on the face, or on areas of the body that is not soaking in water, place a wet cloth on those areas.  After the bath or shower, gently pat the skin dry, and cover your slightly damp skin with a moisturizer.  Apply moisturizer throughout the day.
  • Medical treatment: Use treatments as prescribed by your health care provider.
  • Education:  Look for and avoid triggers.  Keep your house cool and use a humidifier in the winter.  Understand your treatment regimen and get support by talking to others who understand.

Which products should I use?

  • Use products that are made for eczema and/or sensitive skin, that fit your budget, and that you like.  Avoid harsh soaps and cleaners.  Look for ingredients that protect your skin, such as ceramides, and anti-itch ingredients, such as colloidal oatmeal.
  • Protect your skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen made for sensitive skin, avoiding times when the sun is at its brightest, wear hats and loose and light clothing that cover your skin and keep it dry. 
  • Make sure to use your prescription medications properly.
Photo of a woman applying sunscreen to a child





For more information contact the Health Unit or speak to your health care provider.


  • Canadian Paediatric Society. (2012). Your baby’s skin. Retrieved from
  • Eczema Society of Canada. (2016). Managing eczema: Eczema education series. Keswick, ON: Eczema Society of Canada.
  • Leduc, D. (2015). Well beings: A guide to health in child care (3rd ed.). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Paediatric Society.

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