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Atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis is a common skin disorder, which often begins around the age of three months, but can also develop at an earlier age.

This information center aims to help individuals, children and their families to better understand this skin disease and improve their health and quality of life through articles, advice and testimonies.

the disease

The word "atopy" is derived from the Greek "a" meaning "without" and "topos" meaning "place".
"Without a place" is a perfect way to describe this disease, difficult to understand.

Atopy is a genetic predisposition to allergies, known as the atopic family history. Almost 80% of children with eczema have a family history.

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease
Atopic patients (50 million people affected in Europe, up to 20% of children worldwide) have defective skin permeability and a hyperreactive and unbalanced immune system. The skin is dry, sensitive and hyperreactive.

The Filaggrin, a protein of the skin which ensures adhesion between cells in the outermost layer of the skin, is deficient. In addition, the skin lacks the lipids which are naturally found on its surface and which protect it from potential allergens.

Under these circumstances, irritants found in the environment and which are usually well tolerated, such as pollen, dust and certain hygiene products, can penetrate the skin and cause a flare-up of eczema.

The disease usually occurs after (and sometimes before) the age of three months and can last between a few months and several years, depending on the child. Without proper treatment, the vicious cycle of itching settles in: the skin barrier deteriorates even further, allowing more allergens and irritants to penetrate the skin and to cause further itching.

However, few cases persist into adulthood: half the children with atopic eczema before the age of one are cured by the age of five, although the skin is still very dry in the following years.


Although it is not a serious disease, atopic dermatitis strongly impacts on everyday life.
Parents are anxious and children are tired: atopic dermatitis can upset the family routine due to its constraints, the attention and care it requires and the incessant scratching that exacerbates symptoms and leads to increasingly difficult nights.
Not only is it a heavy daily concern for parents, but siblings may also feel neglected or even hurt when the family stops participating in activities that could interfere with an atopic child's health, such as outdoor sports (sweating and exposure to pollens inflame patches of eczema) and trips to the pool or to the beach (burning sensation caused by chlorine and salt).

the treatment

A two-phase dermatological treatment
The skin needs water and lipids several times a day (even in the absence of lesions) in order to restore the natural barrier protecting it from allergens. During breakouts, cortisone-based creams effectively reduce lesions. Prescribed by a dermatologist, these treatments greatly improve the atopic patient's quality of life when taken properly.

Emollient creams to fight dryness and restore the natural barrier
These creams must be applied several times a day to non-inflammatory areas. They fight skin dryness and soothe the skin, thus reducing itching. This everyday routine is also recommended to prevent outbreaks. Apply the cream even when the skin looks healthy.

Corticosteroid creams to stop the inflammation
During breakouts, corticosteroid cream should be applied to the inflamed areas in order to soothe and reduce damage and scratching. In some countries, cortisone is unpopular due to its supposed side effects: water retention, sleep disorders, a slower growth rate, etc. However, these phenomena only concern corticosteroids administered orally. When in cream form, cortisone remains on the skin surface. However, cortisone should not be applied to areas without lesions, as it thins the skin and may weaken it.

If allergy test results so recommend, for example, the doctor may add an antihistamine treatment to the creams.

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