Eczema Myths & The Facts

Eczema Myths & The Facts

Check out some common myths about eczema and find out the facts.

Myth: You can catch eczema

Fact: The reality is that eczema is a genetic problem - the environment is also a factor. The outside layer of skin has micro-cracks that can let moisture out. Inflammation happens and that leads to skin that may look red, flaky and can be weepy. You can't catch eczema and you cannot pass it on to someone else. 

If the skin has open sores or blisters that have become infected, then this can spread to other people.

Myth: It's just a skin problem, isn't it? Eczema is not serious

Fact: Eczema can have a huge impact on your child's quality of life:

  • lack of sleep for your child and your family
  • it is painful as well as itchy
  • there can be embarrassment, teasing and bullying
  • your child may not be able to join in normal activities such as sport

Myth: Topical steroids are unsafe and you should use them sparingly

Fact: Your child needs these when eczema is flaring (red and itchy). You generally use these creams or ointments once daily. The aim is to calm the inflamed skin.

Using the skin steroid too thinly (sparingly) may lead to not calming the rash. Put enough of the cream or ointment on all rashes.

Myth: Moisturiser alone will work

Fact: When there is flared (red and itchy) eczema skin, this needs the help of skin steroids.

Moisturisers are also very important. Make sure to put them on skin at least in the morning and evening. Smoothe them on in the direction that hair grows.

Myth: Any moisturiser will work

Fact: Moisturisers may contain many ingredients. Some of these may in fact make eczema worse.

Use a simple cream or ointment, rather than a lotion and avoid ingredients that come from foods.

Myth: Bathing too frequently will make eczema worse

Fact: Bathing usually causes no problems and is very important for your child with eczema. Bathing washes off germs, dirt and can help to keep moisture in the skin (hydrate the skin).

It's best to bath daily in warm water. Avoid soap or bubble bath. Always use a soap-free product to wash the skin.

It is also important to put moisturiser on straight after the bath.

Myth: Bleach baths are not appropriate for children

Fact: Bleach baths are very safe when used in the right way. They decrease germs sitting on skin with eczema.

Using the right bleach and the right amount is important - check When and how to use bleach baths for your child with eczema.

Myth: You should not go swimming

Fact: Spending too much time in water can make eczema worse. This is especially true if your child's skin is flaring (red and itchy). But, when your child has clearer skin, they can try swimming. It often causes no problems.

It's good for children to be confident in water.

Always moisturise before swimming. Don't spend too long in the water. Get out and have a fresh-water wash off. Moisturise again.

Myth: A family history of eczema means baby will have it also

Fact: Eczema is more likely when there is a family member with eczema but not all these children will develop eczema.

A child may get eczema even when they don't have a parent with eczema.

Myth: Eczema can be cured

Fact: There is no single treatment that can make eczema go away permanently. Good skin care is the main focus of managing eczema. Eczema is a long-lasting (chronic) condition. It is likely to go through changes at different stages of life.

Myth: It's an allergic reaction

Fact: Eczema is caused by the outside layer of skin not being made properly. Several things can make eczema flares worse. These include: dust, soaps or pollens, and sometimes food, passing into the skin, causing it to get red and inflamed. These are irritants which flare the skin - this is not an allergy.

Myth: Stopping a food, or changing the diet should help

Fact: Stopping a food (food avoidance) will not necessarily improve eczema. Doctors and nurse specialists do not generally advise food avoidance. Good skin care is the focus of managing eczema.

Talk to your doctor or nurse specialist before withdrawing food from your child’s diet if your child:

  • has a diagnosis of food allergy, or
  • has severe eczema which doesn't respond to topical treatment (treatment on the skin)

See Eczema and food allergy - fast facts.

This content has been approved by the Eczema Clinical Network and the Child and Youth Allergy Clinical Network, Paediatric Society New Zealand.

This page last reviewed 25 August 2020.
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