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Signes eczéma atopique chez un bébé.

Atopic eczema in a baby: how to recognize it?

Atopic eczema is a skin issue that can affect all ages. Babies are not spared, and it is estimated that about one in five children are affected by this dermatosis. To alleviate the infant and reassure the parents, it is crucial to be able to recognize atopic eczema. Let's explore together the signs of this condition.

Published September 18, 2023, updated on June 24, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 5 min read

What is Atopic Eczema?

Atopiceczema is a common skin condition that can have a significant impact on the quality of life of those affected. This disease is characterized by the presence of lesions and red patches that cause intense itching. Eczema can develop as early as infancy and persist into adulthood in about 10 to 15% of cases. Studies have shown that there is a high prevalence of family history of eczema in children with this disease. Approximately 50 to 70% of children suffering from it have a first-degree relative who has also been affected.

Atopic dermatitis develops in individuals with genetic predispositions to allergies, which is a genetic condition referred to as atopic. These individuals exhibit a dysfunction in their skin barrier, which is characterized by a deficiency in sebum, lipids, and other molecules essential to the integrity of the skin's horny layer. This alteration of the skin barrier makes the skin more vulnerable to environmental irritants and allergens, which can cause inflammatory reactions.

Furthermore, the immune system of individuals with atopic eczema secretes large amounts ofImmunoglobulin E (IgE), antibodies, in response to environmental antigens. This exaggerated immune response is the cause of the redness, skin dryness, and irritation experienced by individuals with atopic eczema.

How to recognize atopic eczema in a baby?

Atopic eczema can appear as early as the first few months of life in an infant. It's important to remember that this skin disorder is not contagious and parents do not need to take any special precautions to protect themselves. Atopic eczema is related to the infant's skin's lack of ability to defend itself against its environment, which causes inflammation. Atopic eczema in a baby triggers various symptoms, among which include:

  • A skin dryness throughout the body, despite maintaining daily hydration. The deficiency of the infant's skin barrier leads to significant water losses. This phenomenon is called xerosis.

  • The emergence of swollen, red, scaly patches located at various parts of the body. The location of these patches changes depending on the child's age. They are typically found on the face (forehead, chin, cheeks) and limbs (legs, arms) in infants. The lesions then tend to relocate to the folds of the skin (neck, ear, elbow, buttock, wrist, ankle) after the age of two. These patches gradually become covered with vesicles that begin to ooze and eventually leave behind crusts.

  • Itching that causes the baby to scratch.

Infant eczema is characterized by alternating flare-ups with periods of remission. Generally, the outbreaks are separated by moments of calm, only to disappear in the coming years. However, atopic dermatitis sometimes persists into adulthood.

Atopic Eczema in Babies: How to Alleviate It?

Seeing your child in distress is a significant source of stress for parents. Fortunately, it is possible to alleviate infants suffering from atopic eczema. One of the actions not to be underestimated is to consult a doctor who can recommend suitable treatments. Depending on the severity of the eczema, they may advise using a lotion, cream, or emollient ointment, sometimes in conjunction with a low-potency topical corticosteroid .

The emollient should subsequently be applied daily to maintain skin hydration and strengthen the skin barrier. By providing lipids to the stratum corneum, this treatment helps to prevent future flare-ups. The topical corticosteroid is applied as soon as a flare-up begins to emerge. It is often preferable to apply it as soon as redness begins to appear in order to contain the flare-up.

Furthermore, to soothe and prevent eczema in infants, hot baths should be avoided. High temperatures tend to dissolve the hydrolipidic film present on the skin, which further weakens the child's skin barrier. After the bath, gently dry their skin with light patting and opt for soft and fluffy towels. Other habits can be adopted to limit flare-ups, such as banning carpets and heavy curtains, textiles that can trap dust, regular vacuuming, etc.


  • GOLDENBERG G. & al. Eczema. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine (2011).

  • BORRADORI L. & al. Dermatologie et infections sexuellement transmissibles. Elsevier Masson (2017).


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