Is there a test for atopic dermatitis?

To see if you or your child has atopic dermatitis, the doctor may ask:

  • About your family history of allergies.
  • Whether you also have hay fever, asthma, or food allergies.
  • About your exposure to:
    • Soaps.
    • Some perfumes and cosmetics.
    • Cigarette smoke.
  • If you have sleep problems.
  • If any foods seem to trigger hives.
  • About previous treatments for skin-related symptoms.
  • About use of steroids or other medications.

The doctor may also look at your skin and the rash. They may also order blood tests or other lab tests.

How is atopic dermatitis treated?

The goals for treating atopic dermatitis include:

  • Manage and control dry skin.
  • Stop more skin from becoming inflamed.
  • Control itching.
  • Promote healing.
  • Prevent infections from itching.
  • Prevent flares.

Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan based on:

  • Where your rash is and how bad the itching is.
  • Things that seem to trigger the rash.
  • The skin’s response to specific treatments, to see which treatments seem to work best.

Treatments usually include a combination of therapies and can include:

  • Medications, which your doctor may prescribe.
  • Skin care, such as applying moisturizers right after bathing.
  • Phototherapy, which is the use of ultraviolet A or B light waves to treat symptoms.

If you or your child develops skin infections from atopic dermatitis, your doctor may recommend additional topical or oral antibiotic treatments.

Who treats atopic dermatitis?

The following health care providers may diagnose and treat atopic dermatitis:

  • Dermatologists, who specialize in conditions of the skin, hair, and nails. You may want to find a dermatologist that specializes in treating atopic dermatitis.
  • Allergists, who specialize in treating allergies.
  • Primary health care providers, including family doctors, internists, or pediatricians. 

Living with atopic dermatitis

Living with atopic dermatitis can be hard. Here are some tips to help control atopic dermatitis.

  • Follow a daily skin care routine to help prevent flares. Skin care can include:
    • Taking lukewarm baths to clean the skin without drying it too much. Limit baths to once a day.
    • Using mild unscented bar soap or non-soap cleanser.
    • Patting the skin dry after bathing and not allowing it to get too dry before moisturizing (avoid rubbing or brisk drying).
    • Using a moisturizer to seal in the water that has been absorbed into the skin during bathing. Use cream and ointments and avoid lotions with high water or alcohol content, which can cause burning.
    • Protecting the skin from irritants and rough clothing, such as wool.
  • Talk to your doctor about potential food allergies.
  • Manage stress. Using stress management and relaxation techniques can help lower your stress and decrease the chances of flares. Talk to family, friends, health professionals, and support groups or organizations for support.
  • Avoid scratching or rubbing, which irritates the skin, increases inflammation, and can increase itchiness. Keep fingernails short to help reduce scratching.
  • Seek counseling. If you are feeling overwhelmed, embarrassed, or anxious about the condition, seek counseling with a mental health professional.
  • Maintain level indoor temperatures. Keep the inside of your home at a cool, stable temperature and consistent humidity levels.
  • Get restful sleep. If you or your child is unable to get restful sleep at night because of itching and scratching, talk to your doctor about options to better control the atopic dermatitis.
  • Avoid exposure to the smallpox vaccine. Anyone with atopic dermatitis should not receive a smallpox vaccine. Talk to your doctor about your risks before anyone in your household receives the vaccine.