Eczema Herpeticum – What is it and is it dangerous?

Eczema Herpeticum (extract from

Eczema herpeticum – this is a term that I keep hearing of moms in forums sharing that their children have repeated eczema herpeticum during the year and also of delayed diagnosis where it’s not identified as herpeticum promptly.

If you search eczema herpeticum’s definition – you’ll see it’s often stated as a rare life-threatening complications that results from infections caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2. The virus enters the child’s body through the defective skin (common in eczema children) and attacks multiple organs, including eyes, brain, lung and liver. However, judging from moms’ feedback, it isn’t that rare, so let’s learn more about it!

Is Eczema Herpeticum Dangerous?

Before we get to that, let’s look at how one gets it. Usually the child comes into contact or catches the virus from someone with cold sores. Cold sores is not dangerous and usually it causes blisters around the mouth and is accompanied with fever or flu-like symptoms. Cold sores is most contagious when there are blisters, but can also spread when there’s no blister as the herpes simplex virus can lie dormant in one’s body. The virus can be spread by kissing, sharing utensils, lip balm or generally, coming into contact with the mucus of the infected person.

Now, here’s the DANGER part – for a child with eczema, the herpes simplex virus can enter the skin and sets off a chain of infections, including large scale bacterial skin infection. The symptoms are:

1. 5-12 days after exposure – Rashes with blisters at eczema lesions/skin patches

2. Spreading of the blisters with yellow pus, accompanied with flu, fever and body aches

3. Blisters start to get painful with bleeding, scabbing

4. Widespread at body parts, usually neck, head, upper body with swollen lymph nodes

If left to run its course, the infections may take over body organs, including the eyes. Should the eczema on your child looks different than normal, and starts to blister with pus, it’s recommended to go to the hospital for a prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosing and Treating Eczema Herpeticum

Diagnosis can be quickly conducted by antibody staining of the pus filled vesticles or a viral culture test. Sometimes, it may be mistaken as small pox or chicken pox, but in any case, an anti-viral drug such as acyclovir or valaciclovir can be administered. For skin with bacterial infections caused by staph, antibiotics is also given to reduce the secondary infection risk.

Be prompt in going to hospital as research shows that the delay in one day increases hospital stay by 11% and one-third of the patients have staph infections, while 3.9% has blood infected and 3.8% needs to stay in intensive care.

As for why moms are sharing that their children gets repeated attacks, it’s because the virus stays in the child’s body and sometimes when there’s a trigger such as fever/flu or stress, it can set off the virus. Some children need to be on daily anti-viral drug which so far, seems to be minimal long-term negative effect as the drug attacks the virus but not the child.

Learn more about eczema and infection from National Eczema Society here.

A note on Marcie’s experience: When she got chickenpox, she didn’t get the anti-viral drug because her skin wasn’t so bad. When she got Hand-Foot-Mouth-Disease the second time, she was given anti-bacterial antibiotics because her skin looked red and infected.

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27 thoughts on “Eczema Herpeticum – What is it and is it dangerous?

  1. Yeesh, I had this once as a kid. Was in Germany and had it diagnosed & treated by a competent doctor though I never knew what it was. I didn’t know it could progress to the organs. Definitely important to catch it in time.

    • Hi Tiffany!
      My girl hasn’t had eczema herpeticum before, but from what I know, if the rashes progress to blisters with prolonged fever, definitely require visit to doctor.
      Take care!

  2. My 10 year old daughter had this 4 years ago, the doctor kept telling me it was chicken pox but after she got really bad we discovered she had this.

    It’s awful, it ended up so bad that she lost the top layers of skin off her legs and caught a secondary infection, she was off from school for a month while we dressed and creamed her legs 3 times a day. My heart goes out to anyone suffering from this.

    My daughter has had eczema since she was born and it is showing no signs of easing up, they have also stopped telling me that she will grow out of it. I had never heard of eczema herpeticum until she got it.

    • Hi Rhonda, Thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving a comments, and sorry to hear of such bad experience in treatment of herpeticum :(
      Hugs, and pray that your girl won’t get it again!

  3. Hi,
    My daughter just got eczema herpeticum this past week. She is 4 and has had terrible eczema since birth. I don’t know where she contracted the virus, but she started itching spots that looked far worse than normal eczema on Wednesday. Thursday, the pediatrician told us “it is viral herpes”, gave us aciclovir and a topical steroid and that’s it. I was frustrated and have done a lot of research on it to find the “eczema herpeticum”. Thanks for the blogs and stories everyone – I have been very scared, but find comfort in hearing other moms’ stories.

    • Thanks for dropping by my blog, and hope Cassidy is better now. Your doc did give you what’s commonly prescribed.. maybe too busy to explain more and I’m glad you found some comfort from reading this post :)
      Keep us updated on how the condition goes, keeping my fingers crossed for you it’s one-time and then be so behind it for your family.

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  5. Thanks for the blog. I never know there is this kind of ezcema until reading this. My girl just had chickenpox last week, she still in recovering period (11 days now), the pox has stopped and but still some itchy pox to heal up.
    My husband just got coldsore but didnt touch her at all. We went to see pharmacist and said this was chickenpox. Sometimes it is so hard to judge, but I do hope it WAS chickenpox !

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  7. Hi all my son too has aso had herpeticum ezcema 3 times in last year and has currently just finished anti viral treatment but thing is he finished treatment yesterday afternoon and by last night it had all flared up again, so telephoned hospital to be told take him to your GP tomorrow, he also suffers with discoid ezcema so his skin is in a terrible state and you cannot use steroid creams whilst on anti viral treatment

    • Sorry to hear of this Karen! I know that when my daughter had chicken pox, and just a month ago Shingles!, her eczema got worse. We’re fortunate to survive chickenpox without any med, not that I didn’t want to, but wasn’t aware of the risk then.
      Have a good weekend, take care,

  8. Hi am late 30,s I have had a topic eczema all my life, but 7 days ago I got these symptoms, phoned albulance to take me to hospital, they were not interested of the pain I was in. So I made my own way to A+E at St Thomas as they have a dedicated Dermatology department. Have been admitted here for 5 days and on the mend. Was prescribed Flucloxacillin 500mg and Valaciclover 500mg.

    • Hi Shahid,

      Thanks for sharing and hope you got better soon! Do also check with the doc if you should take any preventive measures to reduce the chance of recurring, take care,

  9. My son is suffering from eczema herpeticum, he has boils in his hands and legs. now we are applying on him fucicort oinment, cetaphil moisturizer and omnicef antibiotics. its almost 10 days now, hope he will get well soon.

    • Hugs! I hope your son will recover too! I’m not sure about the risk of recurring in kids, but do check with the doc if there’s anyway you can minimize that risk, hugs.. understand it’s very tough time to go through this, take care of yourself too!

  10. I am waiting to hear back from the Dr. regarding the culture test we did on my 11 month old daughter. Both my husband and I have HSV 2 and I am so distraught about this thinking I have given this to my daughter. I am not sure how I could have given it to her…I took a bath with her and maybe that was when it happened. My heart is broken…I don’t understand if she will have this for life like my husband and I do, or if it will go away and not be transferred to someone else?

    • Don’t blame yourself, hugs! I’m not sure if it’s possible to get rid of the virus.. may be more of a case of building a stronger immunity to reduce the chance of it recurring? I only know that my daughter had shingles (very rare for a child of preschooler age) and it happened when someone in her class had HFMD and she was showing signs of coming down with flu.

  11. Hi, I am one of the “victim” of eczema herpeticum. I was only diagnosed after I went to see a competent dermatologist. I was on meds for 4 months and was getting better but the symptoms reoccur. :(

  12. My daughter was just diagnosed today with eczema herpeticum. Im very worried since its herpes. The doctor gave her some antiviral meds but that’s all. He said nothing about being contagious and didn’t explain anything at all. So here i am looking for anything i can read about it online. So thanks!

    • Hi Jennifer! Sorry to hear of the herpeticum! Definitely no sharing of towels and be careful to give her away from anyone with cold sores, I freak out everytime I see someone on the train with sores cos I do think they spread quite easily, at least from what I’ve heard from other eczema sufferers. Also that it recurs quite often.. hope that doesn’t happy for your daughter, hugs!

  13. Hi. My son had chicken pox a month ago. My husband has since had shingles. I took my 18 mo daughter to docs. The first doc thought it was chicken pox. I wasn’t convinced as she had a flare up of excema. I took her to out if hours next day when a competent doc told me it was excema herpeticum. I’m getting different stories from docs. One says it’s isolated and the other says my daughter will be susceptible to this ugly virus. My daughter is on acyclovir. Last night I noticed my son getting spots around creases in his knee. I took him to docs this morning and he has the sane thing as his mouth has broken out. Are my two kids going to suffer this? I feel like sucha bad parent. They weren’t near anyone with cold sores only shingles. I’m afraid they will have to suffer this throughout their lives.

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