How Age Affects Eczema Location

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Eczema, also often referred to as dermatitis, is a relatively common skin condition. The rash caused by eczema is usually red and itchy, but can vary in other characteristics from person to person.

While many types of eczema with different triggers exist, the most common form is atopic dermatitis. This type of eczema mostly affects people who tend to have asthma, hay fever, or food allergies. In addition, many experts believe there is a genetic predisposition to developing it.

Contact-based allergies and sensitivities will usually affect only the part of the body they come into contact with, but atopic eczema rashes seem to be quite predictable in their location. Moreover, the parts of the body affected by eczema appear to vary with age.

Areas affected by eczema are typically very itchy, dry, crusty, scaly, and/or thickened. In addition, these areas may cause skin discoloration, causing the skin to become lighter or darker, depending on your pigmentation. 

Location Depends on Age

While eczema, or atopic dermatitis, can occur at any location of the body, the most common sites for eczema will depend on the age of the person. It is important to remember that atopic dermatitis is an itch that, when scratched, erupts into the identifiable eczema rash. Therefore, for a person who has atopic dermatitis, scratching any area of skin long enough will result in eczema.

In infants and very young children, eczema most often involves the face (especially the cheeks), chest, and back of the scalp.

This distribution reflects where the child is able to scratch, and therefore usually spares the diaper area.

Eczema tends to reach a peak of intensity between ages two and four. During this time, it most commonly affects the skin in front of the elbows and behind the knees. These areas are known as "flexural areas." It can also begin to affect areas of the body, such as the lower legs and feet, that begin to come into contact with more surfaces as children become more mobile.

In older children and adults, the location of eczema classically involves the skin in front of the elbows and behind the knees. Again, these “flexural areas” represent areas that are easily scratched in older people.

While atopic dermatitis is usually considered a condition of childhood (typically appearing during the first year) and most people outgrow it by the time they are teenagers, it can persist into adulthood. When this happens, it most often affects areas exposed to allergens or irritants such as the hands, scalp, eyelids, and nipples.


Treating eczema is aimed mostly at avoiding known triggers, such as allergens, rough surfaces, or extreme temperatures, and decreasing inflammation of the skin. Topical steroid creams and ointments are usually very effective at soothing the itchiness. In addition, maintaining optimal skin moisture can help prevent outbreaks and minimize the risk of infection. 


Atopic Dermatitis Practice Parameters. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol;93:S1-21.

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