Atopic Dermatitis and Eczema


"Patients with atopic dermatitis often scratch in their sleep and have very disordered sleep patterns. After coming to Children's Atopic Dermatitis Center, we've had parents call us to say, 'My child has never slept through the night before we saw you and listened to what you told us to do.'"

Lynda Schneider, MD, director of Children's Allergy Program and Atopic Dermatitis Center

About atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, allergic, non-contagious skin disorder that causes itchy, scaly, flaky skin. 


  • is the most common chronic skin disorder in children
  • occurs in 10 to 20 percent of children
  • usually affects babies or very young children
  • may last until adolescence or adulthood
  • causes the skin to itch, scale and flake
  • can lead to permanent scars if your child scratches too much
  • lowers a child’s quality of life because the itching feeling is constant
  • is not curable
  • can get better as a child grows older

Atopic dermatitis is a type of inflammation of the skin often connected to allergies. Physicians often use the terms eczema and atopic dermatitis interchangeably because most cases of eczema in children are caused by atopic dermatitis. Eczema is a general term for inflamed, itchy skin, which can sometimes be caused by something other than atopic dermatitis.

Food allergies are a trigger for some patients with atopic dermatitis.

How Boston Children's Hospital approaches atopic dermatitis

Children’s Allergy and Dermatology Programs see many children with atopic dermatitis and ensure your child's treatment plan is well thought out from start to finish.  For children with difficult to control atopic dermatitis, Children’s has an Atopic Dermatitis Center, which is part of the Allergy Program, Our center has a pediatric allergist, a pediatric nurse practitioner, a pediatric nutritionist and a pediatric psychologist or a behavioral therapist who helps your child learn ways to cope with the itching and scratching.

Our multidisciplinary approach is the key to our treatment, and the Atopic Dermatitis Center teams up with pediatric dermatologists regularly to find the best treatments for patients. In addition to atopic dermatitis, the center also treats allergies and asthma.


 The impact of infant atopic dermatitis on a family

 At 1 year old, Brett Nasuti developed atopic dermatitis, which his doctor diagnosed as a result of food allergies. Read more about their success story and the impact atopic dermatitis can have on a family. Join the conversation or share your story on Children’s Thriving blog.

Atopic dermatitis: Reviewed by Dale Umetsu, MD and Lynda Schneider, MD

© Children’s Hospital Boston; posted in 2011