A father investigates a patch of eczema on his toddler son's back.

Guide to Toddler Eczema: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Toddlers are busy and often on the move. They’re still learning how to communicate their needs, which means caring for their eczema can be challenging. The good news: by understanding what causes eczema in toddlers, what it looks like, when it will go away, and how to treat it, you can find relief for your toddler — and you!

What Causes Eczema in Toddlers?

Like with adult eczema, the cause of toddler eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, remains unknown. In general, atopic dermatitis can occur as a result of genetic, environmental, and bacterial factors. Researchers know that children with a family history of eczema, asthma, and hay fever (seasonal allergies) are more likely to have atopic dermatitis. Doctors also now know that bacterial imbalances in the skin microbiome can contribute to the development of eczema.

What Does Toddler Eczema Look Like?

Eczema appears in toddlers the same way it does in adults. It forms red, itchy patches of flaky skin. Eczema in toddlers appears most frequently on the:


  • Creases of elbows
  • Back of knees
  • Wrists and ankles
  • Neck
  • Eyelids

Does Toddler Eczema Go Away on Its Own?

Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to whether your child’s atopic dermatitis will clear on its own. Many young children will outgrow their eczema before starting school. Other children will have more persistent eczema that continues into, or reappears, in adulthood. The severity of your toddler’s eczema, their unique genetic makeup, allergies, and environmental factors may all play a role in the persistence of atopic dermatitis. If your toddler appears to have eczema, make an appointment with their pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist in order to receive a diagnosis and determine how to treat their skin. 

Toddler Eczema Treatment

There is no cure for eczema, but there are many ways you can improve your child’s overall skin health and minimize symptoms of eczema.


Adjust Bath Time Routines

Bathing your toddler in hot water for a prolonged period of time can contribute to AD flare-ups and irritation. To keep your child’s skin comfortable, bathe them in lukewarm water for no longer than 10 minutes. 


Many bath products, including bubbles and body washes, contain fragrances, harsh soaps, and other irritating ingredients. Read our Guide to Choosing Baby Skincare Products to find gentle bath time alternatives for your toddler.


Moisturize Using a Toddler Eczema Cream

Applying a fragrance-free cream after your toddler’s bath helps lock moisture into their skin and repair their skin barrier. Reapply as needed throughout the day.

But how do you know which toddler eczema treatment to use? There are hundreds of creams out there, containing everything from oatmeal to honey to steroids. You want to make sure to find a cream that’s designed for young children with eczema-prone skin. That means any products you choose for your child should be minimally formulated and fragrance-free. And you want to make sure that you’re comfortable with the ingredients.

A mother holds a baby whose eczema is under control. Text reads 'better scinence, better skin.' There is a button that says 'shop now.'

Gladskin’s Eczema Cream for Babies & Kids is dermatologist-recommended for babies ages 3 months and up. It’s minimally formulated and contains Micreobalance®, Gladskin’s patented protein that restores bacterial balance to the skin microbiome. It’s both steroid-free and oatmeal-free.

Why no oats? Although colloidal oatmeal is a common ingredient in many eczema products, it can also be an allergen. In this study, 20% of children with eczema tested positive for oat allergies. Scientists believe that repeated applications of oat-containing products on broken skin could cause kids to develop sensitivities.

Remember - you deserve to make the best decisions for your child’s skin without compromise. That means finding products with ingredients that are safe for your child to use long-term.

 


Manage Scratching

Let’s face it…toddlers don’t have the best impulse control. That means if it itches, they scratch! Scratching can make eczema worse and increases the risk of skin infections. To help prevent your toddler from scratching, try keeping their rashes covered with loose-fitting, breathable clothing. Applying a cool compress to your child’s eczema throughout the day can also help minimize the urge to itch. You may want to try having your toddler wear cotton gloves at night to reduce damage to the skin if they’re scratching in their sleep. 


Keep Your Toddler Cool

Heat and sweat are two major eczema triggers. To help keep your child cool, dress them in loose-fitting layers made of skin-friendly fabrics like cotton, bamboo, linen, or Tencel. Try to rinse off sweat as soon as possible. Keep a water bottle on hand so your child stays hydrated in warm water.


Avoid Eczema Triggers

Environmental factors, often referred to as “triggers,” are a common culprit to eczema flare-ups. What triggers eczema in toddlers? Possible triggers that could be affecting your toddler include:


  • Dust, pet dander, or pollen
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Cold, dry winter weather
  • Heat and sweating
  • Laundry detergent and other household cleaners
  • Synthetic or scratchy materials, like wool

Avoiding triggers can be complicated because it’s hard to identify your toddler’s individual triggers. Journal your child’s symptoms and note when symptoms worsen. What did they eat? What was their environment like? How was the weather? Work with your pediatrician, allergist, or dermatologist to identify patterns.

Moving Forward With Toddler Eczema

Toddlers are sweet, but they can be a handful. When you throw eczema into the mix, these years with your little one may not be the easiest. To learn more about managing your child’s skin condition, check out The Parent Guide to Eczema. In search of relief for your little one? Try Gladskin Eczema Cream for Babies & Kids.


More Child Eczema Resources 

Guide to Managing Baby Eczema

Drool Rash vs. Eczema

How to Avoid Dry Skin in Newborns

Baby Eczema vs. Baby Acne