Eczema Treatment: Topical Corticosteroids for Children

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Your dermatologist has recommended a topical corticosteroid to treat your child’s eczema. This tip sheet will provide you with information on how to use this medication and what to expect while your child is using this medication.

Read through this information and follow any personalized instructions from your child’s dermatologist.


  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several topical prescription corticosteroids to treat eczema in children. Some of these are approved to treat eczema in
    • These treatments are available in many strengths, from mild to very
    • Corticosteroids with weaker strengths are available over-the-counter.
  • When applied to skin with eczema, this medicine can reduce inflammation (redness, irritation, swelling),

itch and discomfort on the skin.

  • Prescription corticosteroids should be used under the direction of your
    • The risk of side effects from this medication are low when used as


  • Apply the medicine to your child’s skin exactly as directed by your child’s
  • Wash your hands before and after applying this medicine to your child’s
  • Only use this medicine when your child’s dermatologist includes it in your child’s treatment plan. Children are more sensitive than adults to this
  • Best results are obtained when you bathe your child as directed by your dermatologist and use a fragrance-free moisturizer in conjunction with the topical medication(s).


Studies show that side effects are rare when this medicine is used as directed by a dermatologist. All medicines, however, have possible side effects. Even an over-the-counter topical corticosteroid, like hydrocortisone, can cause side effects.

Most side effects occur on the skin and when the medicine is used on the same area of skin for months to years.

If you notice any of the following on your child’s skin, contact your child’s dermatologist:

  • Bruising
  • Visible blood vessels
  • Stretch marks
  • Breakouts that look like acne
  • Dark spots on the skin

Most side effects that develop on the skin will go away when you stop applying the medicine. It may take months for the side effects to disappear.

Other possible side effects include:

  • The medicine quickly stops working, so you see little or no change to the eczema
  • The appearance of a rash where the medicine has been applied

In addition, let your child’s pediatrician know they are using a topical steroid for their eczema. A pediatrician can note any unexpected changes in your child’s growth curve.


You should contact your child’s dermatologist if you notice:

  • Any of the above side effects
  • You don’t see any improvement in your child’s eczema after two weeks of applying the medicine

The AAD Eczema Resource Center,

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Copyright © by the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides

American Academy of Dermatology

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