Around 25 in the 1940s - leading medics to ask if our modern skin creams and toiletries are to blame.
Professor Richard Cork who heads up the academic dermatology department at the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Sheffield University says new research shows modern-day bath oils and lotions used during babies' first few weeks of life could be the cause of much of the increase.
Professor Cork says newborns with a genetic predisposition to eczema, caused by a hereditary gene defect, can have their immune system made more sensitive by bath products, which then makes them more likely to develop eczema.
He said: ''These babies are born with a defective skin barrier, which means that their skin can be sensitised - made prone to an allergic reaction - much more easily if the "wrong" treatments are used. The outer layer of the skin, called the stratum corneum, provides a barrier which normally prevents the penetration of irritants and allergens.
'But in babies who are predisposed to atopic eczema, this does not work as effectively, allowing loss of water from the corneocytes (cells in the skin), which shrink and allow cracks to open between them, so irritants and allergens can penetrate, leading to lesions from eczema. The use of soap on the skin leads to a further deterioration of the barrier, because it breaks down the cells which are still forming in babies' skin.'
Professor Cork also criticised the use of aqueous cream which is routinely prescribed to babies with skin conditions, branding it 'extremely damaging'.
What do you think?
Do you have a baby or child with eczema?
Has it been ever been made worse by product over-load?
Do you have a simple routine to keep it at bay?