Background

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition affecting many people of all ages but is most common in infants and young children. It affects approximately 40% of babies and children worldwide and often appears in the first year of life. Many children grow out of eczema around the age of 5 years however, there are some individuals who will have eczema throughout their life.

Eczema, along with asthma, allergy and allergic rhinitis are more formally known as atopic conditions. Of those children with moderate to severe eczema, a small number will go on to develop food allergy, asthma of childhood and/or allergic rhinitis.

It is not well understood why some individuals develop eczema or other atopic conditions however, there is research and clinical trials currently underway looking into possible genetic, immunological and environmental causes for eczema.

Immunisation implications

Although there is no causal relationship between vaccines and eczema identified in the literature it is recognised that a flare of eczema may occur following immunisation.

Parents of infants and children with eczema can be confident that vaccines do not cause atopic disease, and should be reassured that while children may experience a flare of eczema in the days following their vaccines, this is not considered a contraindication to immunisation.  It is important that eczema management continues, including the use of moisturisers, topical steroids and barrier creams in order to treat any symptoms that may occur. Families should seek medical advice from their local GP or eczema specialist if they are concerned.

It is important to also note that the use of topical steroids to treat active eczema is not a contraindication to any vaccination. If there is active eczema present, an alternate injection site could be considered to reduce the risk of infection (or abscess) at the injection site. If no other site is deemed suitable, cleaning the site with an alcohol based wash/single use alcohol swab and allowing the site to dry completely before injecting could be considered. BCG vaccination should be deferred if there is active eczema at the injection site.

Resources

Authors: Mel Addison (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)

Date: July 2020

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.