Is Eczema Contagious?

Is eczema contagious? Eczema is not contagious. Most people struggle battling with the misconception that it is contagious. The condition is not transmitted through contact with an infected person. Dealing with this condition isn’t easy, and myths make it even harder for a patient to get through it quickly.

What is eczema?

Eczema refers to medical conditions that make the skin irritated or inflamed. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. Approximately 31% of people in the US have some eczema and children are more affected than adults. It’s important to understand the various types of eczema.

Types of eczema

  • Atopic dermatitis: results when the immune system malfunctions, causing skin barrier problems.
  • Contact dermatitis: occurs when the skin comes in contact with an irritant or an allergen.
  • Nummular eczema: occurs when the skin is dehydrated or from allergens. They look like round lesions and can weep fluids in adults.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: caused by several factors including skin microorganisms, genetics, and hormones.
  • Stasis dermatitis: occurs when blood circular to the legs is poor. As a result, veins swell and leak causing the skin to swell and turn red as well.
  • Hand eczema: limited to the hands. Although it may be related to atopic eczema, it may be caused by using strong detergents, allergy or repeated hand washing.
  • Lichen simplex chronicus: occurs as a reaction to continued scratching or rubbing of the skin when someone is nervous. It makes the skin develop small bumps or a rash.

Eczema symptoms

Eczema symptoms vary with age and the condition type. Mostly, atopic dermatitis affects infants. Dry and scaly patches appear on their skin surface and are often intensely itchy. It begins before the age of five. 50 percent of those who develop this condition as infants continue showing symptoms as adults.

Those affected by this condition experience moments when symptoms get worse followed by improved conditions. Since these symptoms vary with age, here are some of them:

Symptoms in children below two years

  • Rashes on cheeks and scalp
  • Bubbling up of rashes oozing fluid
  • Intensely itchy rashes that affect sleep. Prolonged scratching may cause skin infections.

Symptoms in children below puberty but more than two years

  • Rashes develop at the back of elbow creases or knees.
  • Rashes appear on wrists, buttocks, legs, and neck.
  • Rashes turn bumpy with time
  • They appear darker than before
  • They can thicken

Symptoms in adults

  • Mostly, rashes develop and appear in elbow creases of knees, elbows or neck nape.
  • A significant part of the body is covered with rashes.
  • A lot of rashes appear around the eyes, on the face, and neck.
  • Skin dryness caused by rashes
  • Permanent itchy rashes
  • More scaly rashes than in children
  • Skin infections may occur

Adults with childhood experience of eczema but showing no signs of the condition are more likely to have easily irritated or dry skin than those with no prior experience. They may also develop eye problems.

The skin appearance of a person affected by eczema depends on the degree of scratching and if the skin develops an infection. Continued rubbing and scratching may worsen irritation, increased inflammation, and intense itching.

Causes of Eczema

Causes of eczema are unknown. However, several factors, both genetic and environmental, contribute to its development. Some of them include:

  • Genetics: there is a high chance that a child will develop eczema if one parent experienced the disease.
  • Irritants: exposure to irritants such as juices, soaps, shampoos, detergents, and disinfectants increase the risk of developing the disease.
  • Microbes: microbes such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses can cause eczema.
  • Temperature: extremely cold or hot weather and perspiration may trigger eczema.
  • Food: some food substances like wheat, dairy products, seeds, nuts, soy, and eggs may cause eczema.
  • Stress: although it may not cause the disease directly, stress may worsen its symptoms.
  • Hormonal changes: hormonal changes in women may trigger eczema symptoms especially when pregnant or during the menstrual cycle.

Eczema treatment

Eczema has no treatment. Treatment plans recommended by doctors aim to cure the affected skin and protect it from flare-ups. A doctor devises treatment plans based on a patient’s health state, age and symptoms observed. Eczema may go away for some individuals, while for others, it may persist as a lifelong condition.

Home remedies

People with eczema have many things they can try to alleviate symptoms and improve skin health. Some of these options include:

  • Taking lukewarm showers or baths
  • Applying moisturizer on the skin to keep moisture within three minutes of bathing or showering
  • Moisturizing the skin every day
  • Using mild or non-soap cleansers when washing
  • Patting the skin with a dry towel or air drying instead of rubbing after bathing
  • Avoiding situations that cause significant fluctuations in body temperature like activities that cause sweating
  • Cutting fingernails short to protect the skin from scratching
  • Using humidifiers in winter and summer

Medications

Doctors may prescribe some of the following medications to treat eczema symptoms.

  • Topical corticosteroid ointments or creams: These medications help in curing itchiness and inflammation of the skin. Once prescribed, you can buy and apply directly to the skin.
  • Systemic corticosteroids: In most cases, systemic corticosteroids are used when topical ones don’t work effectively. They are taken orally or through an injection. They are commonly used for short periods.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are prescribed for eczema if the skin develops a bacterial infection.
  • Antiviral and anti-fungal: These are used to treat skin infection accompanying eczema caused by fungi or viruses.
  • Antihistamine: Since antihistamine cause drowsiness, they are used to reduce chances of scratching the skin at night.
  • Calcineurin inhibitors: Calcineurin inhibitors are drugs that reduce immune system activity. They are useful in managing inflammations and safeguarding the skin from flare-ups.
  • Phototherapy: Phototherapy is effective when managing moderate dermatitis by exposing it to UV rays and monitoring.
  • Barrier repair moisturizers: These moisturizers are used to repair the skin and help prevent water loss.

It’s worth noting that although eczema has no cure, it’s imperative to treat its symptoms. Treatment plans vary from one person to another. After treatment and healing, it’s also advisable to keep checking since it gets irritated easily.

When to call a doctor

Get in touch with your doctor if the skin appears red and extremely itchy. Also, contact specialists when the skin cracks, blisters and becomes painfully dry. You can request your doctor to conduct tests if the skin appears swollen, drains yellow fluids, becomes painful and redness spreads.

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Last Reviewed:
June 22, 2018
Last Updated:
June 21, 2018