Dry skin in children with atopic dermatitis (AD)

Atopic dermatitis (AD) causes dry skin, itch, and rash. Up to 50% of people with AD lack the natural protein filaggrin in their skin. Therefore, their skin becomes dry, cracked and prone to infections.

Atopic dermatitis (AD), also known as atopic eczema, is a chronic skin condition that causes dry skin, itch, and rash1. AD can develop on any area of the skin2. It is the most common inflammatory skin disease worldwide1, and more than 9.6 million children and about 16.5 million adults in the United States suffer from AD3. AD can cause severe itching and sleep disturbance.4

More than 9.6 million children and about 16.5 million adults in the United States suffer from AD.

Who might get atopic dermatitis (AD)?
AD can affect people of all ages, but it is most common in children. About 1 in 5 children has AD, and about 80% of them develop the condition before the age of six. Some children ”grow out” of their AD, but 5-15% of young adults up to 26 years have AD.1

What causes atopic dermatitis (AD) in children?
Both genetic and environmental risk factors play a role in the development of AD5. AD is often associated with other so-called atopic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. If your child has asthma and/or hay fever, your child is more likely to develop AD3.

The underlying cause of AD is thought to be a weakened skin barrier and a predisposition towards allergic inflammation. Environmental factors can trigger an allergic reaction that worsens AD symptoms.6

Managing dry skin in children with AD

Filaggrin deficiency increases the risk of AD
Up to 50% of all people with atopic dermatitis have filaggrin deficiency. Children with atopic dermatitis who have filaggrin deficiency have a greater risk of developing severe eczema and are less likely to “grow out” of atopic dermatitis.

Filaggrin is a protein that occurs naturally in the skin. Filaggrin is vital for the skin’s ability to remain hydrated because it breaks down into water-binding amino acids or “natural moisturizing factors” (NMFs) that help keep the skin adequately hydrated. Without these NMFs, the skin becomes dry and cracked, leading to itching, and leaving the skin more prone to infection because it becomes easier for bacteria to enter the skin.

Managing dry skin in children with AD
To soothe the itching and pain caused by the filaggrin-deficient dry skin in children with AD, it is essential to moisturize with a cream that replenishes the amino acids that the skin lacks due to lowered filaggrin levels.


  1. DermNet NZ: Topics: Atopic dermatitis. Available at https://dermnetnz.org/topics/atopic-dermatitis (last visited 22 April 2022)
  2. American academy of dermatology association: Eczema types: Atopic dermatitis symptoms. Available at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/types/atopic-dermatitis/symptoms (last visited 22 April 2022)
  3. National Eczema Association: Types of eczema: Atopic dermatitis. Available at https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/atopic-dermatitis (last visited 22 April 2022)
  4. National Eczema Association: Mental Health and Eczema – Seeing the Unseen. Available at https://nationaleczema.org/mental-health-science/ (last visited 22 April 2022)
  5. DermNet NZ: Topics: Causes of atopic dermatitis. Available at https://dermnetnz.org/topics/causes-of-atopic-dermatitis (last visited 22 April 2022)
  6. DermNet NZ: Topics: Barrier function in atopic dermatitis. Available at https://dermnetnz.org/topics/barrier-function-in-atopic-dermatitis (last visited 22 April 2022)


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