Will the kids get it? The odds are about fifty-fifty, the same as for allergies. That makes sense given that eczema is actually a type of allergic reaction. The condition can take parents by surprise, though, especially when neither parent actually has it. "The tendency or predisposition to allergic conditions is what's inherited, not the specific allergies," says Howard Saal, M.D., director of clinical genetics at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. However, eczema does have a couple of specific triggers: Cold, dry environments can bring it on, as can highly allergenic foods such as dairy and eggs, says Dr. Shu. Stress can play a role as well: When young children's parents divorced or separated, the kids experienced a threefold increased risk of eczema during the next two years, according to research from the Technical University in Munich, Germany.
Signs they got nabbed: Eczema is pretty hard to miss. The dry, itchy skin or red, rough patches usually form on the cheeks, insides of the elbows, and backs of the knees. And when it's severe (or when the child scratches and scratches), little pus-filled sacs can develop. Of the allergic conditions, this one is most likely to debut first, even during infancy.
What you can do: See your doctor to confirm your suspicions and to develop a maintenance routine to help prevent more breakouts. Usually, staying on top of moisturizing (opt for one that's fragrance- and dye-free) can go far in keeping the condition in check; to ease the itching and inflammation of a flare-up, your doc may prescribe a topical steroid cream. If despite your best efforts your child scratches so much that an infection develops, antibiotics are usually in order.