Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Atopic Dermatitis: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2007 Feb 15;75(4):530.

  See related article on atopic dermatitis.

What is atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis is a rash that usually starts in childhood. It may start out as dry, itchy skin. The rash may become very red and sore. Common places for the rash are in the elbow creases, behind the knees, on the cheeks, and on the buttocks.

The rash can come and go for years. Most children outgrow it, but some people still have it when they are adults.

You are more likely to have atopic dermatitis if a family member has it. You can't catch it from other people.

What can I do if I have it?

You can use over-the-counter creams to help with the rash and itching. Your doctor also can give you medicine. But some medicines may make your skin thinner if you use them for a long time. The rash usually gets better in 10 to 14 days if you use medicine.

How can I prevent atopic dermatitis?

It is important to use a good cream or lotion every day to keep your skin from getting dry. You can try using warm water instead of hot water during showers and baths. You should avoid activities, clothes, and foods that you know will make your skin red and itchy.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

National Institutes of Health

Web site:

American Academy of Family Physicians

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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Apr 15, 2021

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