Eczema - Skin Rash


About eczema

Eczema is not contagious, so you can’t catch it from someone if you touch them. Most people with eczema inherited it from their parents. If you have one parent with eczema, you have a 20% risk of developing eczema yourself. If both parents suffer from eczema, hay fever, or asthma, your chances of developing eczema jump to between 50% and 80%. 

According to the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

Food intake is the environmental factor to which we are all exposed permanently from conception to death. Therefore, dietary habits are the most important environmental factor modulating gene expression during one’s life span.

Although it is acceptable to use modern medicines such as topical steroids to help you or your child gain temporary relief from eczema, a long-term solution usually involves dietary changes. 

Know your lingo:
Atopic: describes an allergy-prone individual and includes eczema, asthma and hay fever. Eczema includes atopic (with allergies) and non-atopic (eczema without allergies) and there are many other types of eczema.
Dermatitis: any generalised inflammation of the skin.
Eczema: derived from a Greek word meaning ‘to boil out’.


Is it eczema or another skin rash?

Eczema is generally diagnosed using the following criteria: You must have itchy skin plus three or more of the following symptoms:

  • itchiness in the skin creases, such as the folds behind the knees and elbows, fronts of the ankles or around the neck. Children under four years may also have it on their cheeks 
  • dry skin
  • visible eczema affecting the outer limbs, cheeks or forehead
  • symptoms appearing within two years of birth (not always an indication, but very common)
  • a family history of asthma, hay fever or (if under four years old) a history of atopic disease in a first-degree relative.

If your rash is not itchy it's another type of skin rash. Your doctor can diagnose your skin rash so you know what condition you are looking to treat. 


How common is eczema?

  • 20% of the population of the Western world has eczema
  • 50 million Americans have eczema and dermatitis (32 million have eczema and 18 million have dermatitis)
  • It’s mostly babies and children who are suffering and one in five children have eczema
  • Eczema sufferers spend up to $2,000 on eczema treatments each year
  • 36% of sufferers spend more than 10 minutes each day applying topical steroids and emollients
  • Despite the best medical care, the number of people with eczema continues to rise and has more than trippled in recent years.

The number of Australians with eczema 



*Photos from top left to right: Karen Fischer's daughter Ayva with eczema on her face and body; Ayva at 1 year wearing mittens to prevent her from scratching (with her grandma); Ayva before and after The Eczema Diet

This is an edited extract from The Eczema Diet.


About Skin Friend

Skin Friend is the official website for skin health nutritionist Karen Fischer, author of The Healthy Skin Diet and The Eczema Diet

Contact Skin Friend or nutritionist Karen Fischer via our Contact page


  • Hanifln, 2007, A population-based survey of eczema prevalence in the United States, retrieved from PubMed;
  • Palmer, 2006, ‘Common loss-of-function variants of the epidermal barrier protein filaggrin are a major predisposing factor for atopic dermatitis’, Nature Genetics;
  • Eczema Association of Australasia
  • National Eczema Association, USA