What is eczema?

Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition that makes your skin red and itchy. It’s the most common type of eczema and often starts in childhood but can occur at any age. A person with atopic dermatitis tends to get flare-ups over time. Using a good skin care regimen along with over-the-counter and prescription treatments can help get atopic dermatitis under control. 

Some people confuse atopic dermatitis with contact dermatitis. While their symptoms are similar, the difference between the two is that atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition that is caused by an imperfect skin barrier and too much inflammation. Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen that triggers a reaction.

How to avoid eczema flare-ups

You may not always be able to control when a flare-up occurs, but here are some triggers that you can try to avoid:

  • Strong soaps and detergents
  • Itchy or scratchy fabric like wool
  • Perfumes or skin care products and makeup with perfumes or that are scented
  • Pollen and mold
  • Animal dander
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Long or scorching hot showers and baths
  • Dry, winter air
  • Certain foods like eggs, dairy products, wheat, soy and nuts

Treatment options for eczema and atopic dermatitis

When home remedies like anti-itch creams, moisturizers and antihistamines (allergy medicines) don’t work, our dermatologists can help. You may need to try a variety of treatments over time to find what could work for you.


There are a variety of medications that can help control itching and repair the skin.  Other medications that control inflammation may be prescribed for more severe cases of atopic dermatitis. 


Light therapy is used for people when topical medications aren’t working or continue to flare up after treatment. 

Wet dressings

An effective treatment for severe atopic dermatitis involves wrapping the affected area with a topical corticosteroid ointment and wet bandages. Depending on the size and number of lesions you have, this treatment may be performed either at home or in the hospital.

Our dermatologists know that atopic dermatitis can be both a physical challenge as well as an emotional one.  When you seek treatment for eczema or other types of atopic dermatitis at Tufts Medical Center, you can count on receiving the highest level of care to get you back to feeling your best.

Programs + Services


Looking for a dermatologist in Boston? Our top rated dermatologists provide innovative treatment for a variety of skin conditions, including cosmetic procedures and treatments for skin conditions and skin cancer.
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Eczema Program

The Division of Allergy at Tufts Medical Center in Boston can help diagnose, find triggers for and treat your eczema.
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Doctors + Care Team

Sarah N.  Robinson, MD

Sarah N. Robinson, MD

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Title(s): Director, Pediatric Dermatology; Dermatologist; Dermatology Residency Program Director; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Dermatology, Pediatric Dermatology
Appt. Phone: 617-636-0156
Fax #: 617-636-9169

Adult and pediatric dermatology, acne, eczema, vascular birthmarks, moles, skin cancer

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