What is eczema?

Eczema is a word that means irritated skin. Doctors don't really know why some kids and adults get eczema, and others don't. They think it might happen for a bunch of reasons:

  • Family: If your mom, dad, brothers, or sisters have eczema, you might get it too.
  • Asthma and allergies: If you have asthma (a disease that can make it hard to breathe) or allergies (when your immune system tries to protect you from normal things that aren't hurting you), you're more likely to get eczema.
  • Where you live: Eczema is more common in cities, polluted areas and in the northern part of the world.

When you have eczema, it means your immune system is working too hard. Your immune system usually is good, because it tries to protect you from bad stuff like infections and diseases. For some reason, when you have eczema, your immune system kind of goes crazy. So that makes your skin overreact to something and get all itchy and rashy. Weird, huh?

If you have eczema, you might not itch all the time. It's sort of like eczema goes to sleep. Certain things wake it up and make you start itching. These things are called triggers and you should try to avoid them if you can, especially if you've noticed that they make your skin itchy.
 
Common triggers are:

  • Animal dander and saliva (when a pet licks you).
  • Scratchy clothes (such as wool).
  • Sweating a lot.
  • Soaps.
  • Household cleaning products.
  • Fruit juices.
  • Dust.
  • A cough, cold, or the flu.

Next: Different kinds of eczema.