Your complete online medical source

Navigate by theme:


Return to index

Skin Problems

Atopic Dermatitis

Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic skin disorder that often develops in people who have asthma, hay fever, and other allergies. It causes an itchy, red, raised rash that may weep or ooze clear fluid. The rash may develop as tiny blisters, which break and crust over. The blisters are prone to infection, especially if scratching is not controlled.

In children, AD appears most often on the face, scalp, buttocks, thighs, and torso. AD is often worse during infancy. It improves in many children by age 5 or 6.

In adults, it usually appears on the neck and in the bend of the elbows and knees. Adults whose hands or feet are often exposed to irritating substances, such as chemicals, develop AD on those areas.

Home Treatment

Top of Page

Helping the skin retain moisture is important to successful treatment of AD.

  • Take brief, daily baths or showers with lukewarm (not hot) water. Use a gentle soap (such as Dove, Oil of Olay, or Neutrogena) or nonsoap cleanser (such as Cetaphil or Aveeno). If possible, bathe without soap.

  • After bathing, pat skin dry and apply a moisturizing cream (Lubri-derm, Moisturel). The cream may help keep your skin from drying out. Reapply cream often.

  • Use a humidifier in the bedroom.

  • Taking an oral antihistamine (such as Benadryl) may help relieve itching and relax you enough to allow sleep. Avoid antiseptic and antihistamine creams and sprays, because they irritate the skin.

  • Avoid contact with any irritants or allergens that cause problems. Wear gloves when working with irritating substances.

  • Wash clothes and bedding in mild detergent and rinse at least twice. Do not use fabric softener if it irritates your skin.

  • For more tips on relieving itching, See Relief From Itching.

When to Call a Health Professional

Top of Page

  • If crusting or weeping sores appear, because a bacterial infection may be present.

  • If itching interferes with sleep, and Home Treatment is not working.

  • If you cannot control atopic dermatitis with Home Treatment.


    Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes raised red patches topped with silvery, scaling skin, usually on the knees, elbows, scalp, and back. The fingernails, palms, and soles of the feet may also be affected. Psoriasis is not contagious.

    The patches, called plaques, are made up of dead skin cells that accumulate in thick layers. Normal skin cells are replaced every 30 days. In people who have psoriasis, skin cells are replaced every 3 to 4 days.

    Small patches of psoriasis can often be treated with regular use of hydrocortisone cream. Tar products (lotions, gels, shampoos) may also be useful, although they may increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun. Limited exposure to the sun may also help (protect unaffected skin with sunscreen).

    Stress may contribute to psoriasis. Stress reduction may help in some cases. See Stress and Distress.

    Call your doctor if psoriasis covers much of your body or is very red. Extensive or severe cases often need professional care.


Top of Page