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Eczema Herpeticum Signs, Causes, Treatment and More

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Feb 14, 2023

Eczema Herpeticum Signs, Causes, Treatment and More

Oftentimes, people use the terms dermatitis and eczema interchangeably to give labels to their present skin conditions. While it can be more or less showing signs of skin inflammation, there are still quite a few notable things to differentiate the two. And, there are also other types under these big umbrella terms. Learn more about what eczema herpeticum is and its signs and causes.

Eczema Herpeticum, Explained

Eczema herpeticum is a rare and severe skin infection that is associated with oral herpes or the herpes simplex 1 virus. This virus usually causes the formation of cold sores in and around the mouth. However, it can also take place in other parts of the body. 

When the breakdown of the skin barrier is not because of eczema, some refer to it as Kaposi varicelliform eruption. This is due to the fact that the first person to describe it thought it looked like chickenpox. It is also the reason why people confuse the stinging and blistering rash to be the other types. 

This is more common in children who have atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory skin conditions. 

If not treated right away, it can become quite dangerous as it tends to spread all over the large areas of the skin. Treatment with antiviral medication is usually highly effective.

What Causes Eczema Herpeticum?

This particular skin infection emerges when the said virus attacks the large areas of the skin as opposed to the common cold sore situated in a small part of the skin. It may or may not start off as a cold sore that would eventually affect the face and other parts of the body.

Both men and women can acquire the virus itself, as well as the skin disease. However, it is more frequent in newborns and toddlers with atopic dermatitis as they seem to have lower immunity to herpes infection. It may range from mild to severe, active or inactive.

There are also some cases in which trauma or cosmetic operations (i.e., lasers, skin peels, and dermabrasion) can potentially be the cause of it.

What Are Its Signs and Symptoms?

The virus usually targets the face and the neck area, but it can also manifest in other parts of the body such as the hands. After the first interaction with the herpes simplex virus, some signs and symptoms can occur up to two weeks later.

The visible signs in the skin are as follows:

  • Itchy and painful cluster of tiny blisters (monomorphic or uniform in appearance)
  • Red, purple, or black blisters
  • Blisters that break open have pus (yellowish fluid) inside

Other symptoms include:

  • High temperature and chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Overall unwell feeling
  • Your doctor can tell if you have eczema herpeticum by the looks of it. To confirm the infection, a viral and bacterial swab from one of the blisters may be collected. 

    The lesions can potentially become infected with bacteria, which is known as a secondary infection. Impetigo and cellulitis can result from this secondary bacterial infection with Staphylococci or Streptococci.

    Can It Be Treated?

    A doctor should provide antiviral medication as soon as possible. This is usually taken in the form of tablets or syrup. However, some individuals who are critically ill or whose disease is fast spreading that involves the eyes will need antiviral medication through a vein. Thus, it may require hospitalization. 

    Also, your doctor may suggest that you continue your regular eczema treatments while taking antiviral medicine. If there are secondary bacterial infections in the skin, topical or oral antibiotics may be administered.

    Key Takeaways

    Herpes is a highly contagious virus that can easily transfer through physical touch. If you suspect your child or even yourself to have eczema herpeticum, you should avoid coming in close contact with other people. At the same time, do consult your doctor about it to be able to get the proper treatment for your skin condition.

    Learn more about dermatitis here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Feb 14, 2023

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