The dry, itchy, inflamed skin characteristic of atopic eczema almost always starts in infancy. Infact 10% of all children in the USA under the age of 5 years are believed to have eczema. The condition alternately worsens and improves. During flare-ups the dry skin may crack leading to open weeping or crusted sores.
It is thought that 60% of children who get eczema will have it by the age of 2 years and 90% will have it by the age of 5 years. 50% of children with eczema will develop asthma or hayfever later in life.
Although not contagious research indicates that atopic eczema like other atopic conditions is genetically determined. The chances of developing atopic eczema are significantly increased when one or both parents suffer from an atopic condition. However 30% of all people affected with eczema have no family member with any of the allergic disorders.