Atopic dermatitis creams, lotions, and topical ointments can help to soothe dry, itchy skin. Other atopic dermatitis treatments include over-the-counter and prescription oral medications, such as corticosteroids and antihistamines.

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Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema that affects around 30% of people in the United States, most of whom are children and adolescents.

Research suggests atopic dermatitis affects 1.7 times more African American children than children of European ancestry. A similarly disproportionate prevalence also exists in Europe.

A person with eczema will typically experience patches of dry, itchy skin that may crack, bleed, or become infected.

This article discusses treatments and home remedies for atopic dermatitis, the latest treatment research, tips for managing the condition, possible treatments for babies, and more.

There is currently no cure for eczema, but many people find that symptoms improve as they get older. Treatments aim to help a person manage the symptoms of their eczema.

According to a 2015 study, regular use of leave-on emollients to preserve and restore moisture to the skin is the basis of all treatment.

Treatments for eczema typically fall into two categories: moisturizers to relieve dryness and itching and anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling, itching, and redness.

People usually apply moisturizers and anti-inflammatories directly to the skin as creams or ointments. It is possible to take some anti-inflammatories orally.

The following sections describe some common treatments for atopic dermatitis.

Over-the-counter treatments

A person can buy certain types of eczema treatment over the counter. These usually come in milder doses than their prescription counterparts.

Over-the-counter treatment options include:

  • moisturizing creams, lotions, or ointments
  • corticosteroid creams such as hydrocortisone to relieve itching and inflammation
  • corticosteroid tablets, which are suitable for short-term use only, to relieve itching and inflammation
  • the oral antihistamines diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which may help relieve itching in some cases

Prescription medications

A doctor may prescribe medicated creams or oral medication to hydrate the skin, reduce itching, and relieve inflammation.

These include stronger antihistamines and corticosteroid creams or tablets. A doctor may also prescribe:

Wet-wrap therapy

Wet-wrap therapy (WWT) may help improve eczema symptoms by increasing the moisture levels of a person’s skin.

According to a 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis, several trials with WWT have reported promising results in atopic dermatitis. However, the review’s authors suggest that evidence for WWT being more effective than conventional treatment with topical steroids is of low quality. They call for more clinical trials to establish its efficacy.

To use this method, a person should wrap wet strips of fabric or gauze around the eczema-affected areas after bathing and moisturizing. Doing this may help keep the skin hydrated and increase the action of medicated creams and moisturizers. A person should not use wet wraps over prescribed corticosteroid creams unless a doctor advises this.

A person should place a dry layer over the wet layer to prevent it from drying out. They can leave the wraps on for several hours or overnight.


People with severe eczema may benefit from UV light therapy. An estimated 68% of people with eczema see an improvement in their symptoms after undergoing phototherapy.

During phototherapy, a doctor or dermatologist will shine a UVB light on either the whole body or just the affected areas. This light helps reduce itchiness and inflammation and encourages the body to create vitamin D. It may also help the skin fight bacteria to prevent infection.

Learn more about UV light therapy for atopic dermatitis.

Certain home remedies can help relieve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis, though people should talk with their doctor to find out the best course of treatment for their symptoms.

Home remedies include:

Natural moisturizers

Some natural products can help lock in moisture and relieve itchiness. According to the National Eczema Association, evidence has shown the following to be effective:

  • Coconut oil: A person can apply virgin or cold-pressed coconut oil directly to eczema to help moisturize the area and reduce bacteria. A person should use it once or twice per day on damp skin.
  • Sunflower oil: Sunflower oil may help improve the skin’s protective barrier and reduce inflammation. A person should apply it twice a day.
  • Cardiospermum: Cardiospermum is a plant extract that may reduce inflammation, itchiness, and bacteria on the skin.


Bathing every day is essential for eczema as it helps keep the skin hydrated and prevents infection. People can also try different kinds of baths for eczema, including:

A bleach bath may decrease skin inflammation and reduce the number of bacteria on the skin, which can reduce the risk of the rash becoming infected. However, a person should exercise caution with bleach and never soak in one of these baths for more than 15 minutes at a time.

A person may want to follow the National Eczema Foundation’s recipe for a bleach bath. In addition, a person should use a moisturizer on affected areas of skin within 3 minutes of getting out of the bath to stop the skin from drying out.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), eczema usually develops when a baby is 3–6 months old.

There is little clear evidence about whether eczema in babies is preventable. Studies suggest that exclusive breast- or chestfeeding for 6 months may reduce eczema in infants who are at high risk by 33%. However, this does not necessarily mean that feeding a baby formula will cause eczema or make the symptoms worse.

Infants may worsen their eczema by scratching because they find it more difficult to avoid. Treatment for eczema in infants and babies is similar to that for adults, with the focus being on the application of moisturizing creams or ointments and anti-inflammatories that reduce the urge to scratch.

A person should also ensure that a baby’s room is not too warm at night, as sweat can make the symptoms of eczema worse.

Although there is no cure for eczema, most children who have this condition will outgrow it by adulthood. Research suggests eczema disappears within 10 years in 80% of children and within 20 years in 95%.

Treatment strategies for atopic dermatitis have focused primarily on corticosteroids and immunomodulators such as tacrolimus.

However, researchers are looking into using other medications that directly target specific immune factors involved in the development of atopic dermatitis. These medications broadly belong to a new category of medications called biologics. The only such medication currently approved for treating eczema is Dupixent.

Researchers are also looking into using JAK inhibitors to treat eczema. These medications appear to be effective in clinical trials in treating atopic dermatitis but may also cause some serious side effects. More research is necessary to determine the best and safest types of medications to use.

One recent study examined the role of an overabundance of certain proteins that may contribute to the inflammatory response in the skin. Although researchers only performed the study in mice, they suggest that antibody therapy targeting these proteins may have potential in future eczema treatment. Learn more about this research.

In addition, some researchers argue that eczema develops due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors that may differ from person to person. For this reason, they believe personalized rather than cookie-cutter treatment may be most effective in treating the condition.

People can adopt various skin care methods to help reduce their eczema symptoms.

A person may want to avoid:

  • scratching the affected areas, as not scratching helps reduce inflammation
  • coming in contact with wool or anything that can scrape the skin
  • using strong soaps, detergents, or products that contain scents, dyes, or fragrances
  • scrubbing dry skin for too long

Other measures a person can take include:

  • minimizing contact with water when washing objects such as dishes by hand
  • trying not to scratch, for example, by keeping the hands busy with tasks or fidget toys
  • keeping the fingernails short and clean in case scratching scrapes the skin too much or introduces bacteria that can cause an infection
  • washing all new clothes with a fragrance-free detergent suitable for sensitive skin
  • wearing loose clothing made of cotton
  • protecting the skin from the sun by covering up or using sunscreen of at least SPF 15
  • keeping a comfortable temperature
  • limiting exposure to allergens such as dust mites, pollen, mold, and certain foods

In addition, taking care of one’s mental health can help limit flare-ups. Research suggests that stress can be a trigger for eczema. Living with the condition may also affect a person’s mental health.

Speaking with medical professionals, friends, and family members may help people manage any mental health issues relating to their eczema. It may also contribute to the reduction of symptoms.

Most people will grow out of eczema, but it can return or develop in some adults. Those with eczema often find that it is an ongoing condition that gets better or worse over time.

The following are answers to some common questions about eczema or atopic dermatitis.

When should I see a doctor for atopic dermatitis?

A person may need to contact a doctor if they experience complications from atopic dermatitis such as bacterial, viral, and fungal skin infections. These are common complications of eczema, as people who scratch can introduce pathogens into the skin. In addition, the skin of people with eczema lacks the proteins that fight infections. Signs of infection include:

  • eczema suddenly becoming worse
  • areas of the skin weeping
  • a raised temperature
  • flu-like symptoms

Can I treat infected eczema at home?

The treatment for skin infections is antibacterial, antifungal, or antiviral medications. In rare instances of viral infection, a person may need to go to the hospital. Therefore, a person should not try to treat infected eczema at home.

How do I treat eczema on my hands?

Treating hand eczema is similar to treating eczema elsewhere on the body. It includes minimizing exposure to triggering irritants, applying moisturizer, and taking prescribed medications as necessary. Wearing gloves when performing tasks that can cause flare-ups may also help.

Treatment options for atopic dermatitis include topical creams, oral medication, wet wraps, phototherapy, and special baths. These treatments may reduce itchiness and dry skin and lower the risk of skin infections.

There is currently no cure for atopic dermatitis, but treatments, home remedies, and management tips can help relieve symptoms. Some of these may even increase the amount of time that the condition stays in remission.