Atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic inflammatory itchy skin condition that develops in early childhood in the majority of cases. It is typically an episodic disease of exacerbation (flares, which may occur as frequently as 2 or 3 per month) and remissions. In some cases, it may be continuous. Atopic eczema often has a genetic component that leads to the breakdown of the skin barrier. This makes the skin susceptible to trigger factors, including irritants and allergens, which can make the eczema worse.

Many cases of atopic eczema clear or improve during childhood, whereas others persist into adulthood. Some children who have atopic eczema will go on to develop asthma or allergic rhinitis; this sequence of events is sometimes referred to as the 'atopic march'. Although atopic eczema is not always recognised by healthcare professionals as being a serious medical condition, it can have a significant negative impact on quality of life for children and their parents and carers.

This guideline concerns the management of atopic eczema in children from birth up to the age of 12 years. It has been developed with the aim of providing guidance on:

  • diagnosis and assessment of the impact of the condition

  • management during and between flares

  • information and education for children and their parents or carers about the condition.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)