Making sense of eczema

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Is eczema contagious?

September 26th, 2007 · No Comments

Eczema is not contagious and people can therefore not “catch” eczema.

Eczema, like many other skin conditions, can become infected with bacteria or viruses. Once this happens other people can potentially “catch” the infection. Note however, that they will only catch the infection and not the eczema! Eczema itself is not contagious.

Don’t be too concerned about catching or transferring an infection from eczematous skin. The only exception to this will be when a Herpes virus or Molluscum contagiosum virus infects eczema. Eczema Herpeticum is the medical term for eczema infected with the Herpes virus. This can be a serious condition that often results in admission to hospital. Eczema infected with the Molluscum contagiosum virus occurs most often in children and does not normally result in serious illness.

The most common infection in eczema is with the bacterium Staphylococcus Aureus. The chances of catching the bacterium from someone with infected eczema is small. Immunosuppressed people, people with eczema or people with frequent, intimate contact with Staphylococcus Aureus infected eczema will have a greater chance of catching the bacterium. Again, they might catch the infection, but not the eczema!

So, if having eczema can predispose someone to a skin infection, can the opposite also occur? Can a skin infection lead to eczema? Most often the answer to this question is no, but on rare occasions people can develop an antimicrobial dermatitis. The word antimicrobial stems from “anti” (against) and “microbe” (organism). The microbes can be bacterial, viral or fungal. The most common example of an antimicrobial dermatitis is a hand dermatitis caused by a fungal infection on the feet (Athletes foot). The hand eczema should disappear following treatment of the Athletes foot.

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