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What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition marked by red, itchy rashes on the skin. It’s also called dermatitis. Several things can trigger eczema, from allergies to contact with an irritating material. In addition, these triggers can vary greatly from person to person.

Unless you know your triggers, eczema can be hard to successfully treat. You might go months without any symptoms only to suddenly have a flare-up.

Eczema isn’t contagious. Even if you have an active rash, you can’t pass the condition on to someone else. If you think you’ve gotten eczema from someone else, you likely have another skin condition.

However, eczema often causes cracks in the skin, leaving it vulnerable to infection. This secondary infection may be contagious.

Read on to learn more about the actual causes of eczema and how to reduce your risk of infection.

There are many types of eczema. Many of them have different causes, some of which still aren’t fully understood.

Atopic dermatitis is one of the most common types. It’s often genetic and tends to start showing up during childhood. This genetic link might make it seem like eczema is contagious, as multiple members of the same family may have it.

Allergic eczema can also be hereditary. People with this type of eczema develop rashes after exposure to certain allergens, such as:

  • pet dander
  • pollen
  • mold
  • foods
  • certain fabrics, such as wool

Keep in mind that you can develop new allergies, and in some cases, eczema, throughout your life.

Contact dermatitis is another common form of eczema. It tends to affect people with sensitive skin. Flare-ups happen when you come into contact with an irritant. These irritants vary from person to person, but can include:

  • fragrances
  • dyes
  • nickel and other metals
  • synthetic fabrics
  • cigarette smoke

The rashes that accompany eczema can leave your skin dry and cracked. In addition, eczema rashes are often itchy, causing you to scratch. All of this can leave small wounds in your skin that can become infected with:

According to the National Eczema Foundation, staph infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus are most common. This is because your skin’s surface naturally contains S. aureus, so it’s easy for it to enter cracks in your skin.

If you have infected eczema, it’s possible to pass on the secondary infection to another person through close contact.

Symptoms of infected eczema include:

  • redness that spreads around the original rash
  • blisters or boils
  • pain
  • severe itchiness
  • clear or yellow discharge

Infected eczema isn’t always preventable, but there are several things you can do to greatly reduce your risk.

Start by trying to prevent any cracks in your skin or open wounds from developing. Try to resist the urge to scratch your skin. This is easier said than done, especially in the middle of a flare-up.

If you don’t already, regularly apply lotion to the affected skin to keep it moisturized, which can help reduce itching. You can find lotions designed for eczema-prone skin online.

Another solution is to make sure your eczema is being managed and treated properly. While eczema is often a life-long condition, this doesn’t mean you’ll have rashes all the time. You’ll only experience them during flare-ups. This is when your body encounters triggers and produces rashes as a response.

Consider seeing a dermatologist if you haven’t already. They can help identify the type of eczema you have and what your triggers are. This will help narrow down the most effective treatment options for you.

Eczema isn’t contagious. If you’ve developed a rash you think you got from someone else, it’s likely not eczema.

However, broken skin caused by an eczema rash is vulnerable to infections that are contagious. If you have eczema, protect any open wounds or areas of cracked skin to reduce your risk of infection.