Eczema Vaccinatum

What is Eczema Vaccinatum?

Eczema vaccinatum is an uncommon, but serious, skin reaction that can occur in some people with a history of atopic dermatitis after immunization with a live virus vaccine. Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is an inherited, chronic itchy skin condition that typically appears in infancy and childhood, and often continuing into adulthood. It is the most common form of eczema and affects up to 10–20 percent of all children and 1–3 percent of adults worldwide.

Signs and Symptoms of Eczema Vaccinatum

Symptoms of eczema vaccinatum may appear any time up to six weeks after the affected person has been vaccinated with a live virus vaccine. The person may develop a widespread, severe rash that typically begins 4 to 7 days after vaccination. This rash can quickly spread to cover the body, including the face and eyes. Other symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and aching muscles and joints. In severe cases, people may develop difficulty breathing.

Treatment of Eczema Vaccinatum

Treatment of eczema vaccinatum typically involves antiviral medication, topical corticosteroids, and oral corticosteroids. Depending on the severity of the reaction, hospitalization and intensive medical care may be necessary. Treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin – an antibody therapy – may also be used in some cases.

Risk Factors for Eczema Vaccinatum

People who are immunocompromised, meaning their immune system is weakened, are more likely to develop eczema vaccinatum. People with a history of atopic dermatitis are also at increased risk. Children younger than 5 years old and those who have been exposed to someone with chickenpox or shingles are particularly at risk.

Preventing Eczema Vaccinatum

There are several steps that can help reduce the risk of developing eczema vaccinatum, including:

  • Making sure everyone in the family is up-to-date on their vaccinations, including people with atopic dermatitis.
  • Avoiding contact with anyone with an active chickenpox or shingles infection.
  • Consulting a doctor before undergoing any immunizations to discuss any underlying conditions or medications that could increase the risk of adverse reactions.