Childhood atopic dermatitis is a disorder with considerable social and financial costs. Consideration of these costs is increasingly important in view of the growing prevalence of atopic dermatitis, particularly in developed countries over recent decades. The family stress related to the care of children with moderate or severe atopic dermatitis is significantly greater than that of the care of children with type 1 diabetes mellitus. The factors contributing to family stress include sleep deprivation, loss of employment, time taken for care of atopic dermatitis and financial costs. The financial costs for the family and community include medical and hospital direct costs of treatments and indirect costs from loss of employment. There are many interventions utilised in the treatment of childhood atopic dermatitis which involve not only medical practitioners but nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, psychologists and purveyors of so-called alternative therapies such as naturopathy, aromatherapy and bioresonance, all of which contribute to the financial burdens on the parents and the community. It is possible that appropriate interventions directed to reducing trigger factors might produce worthwhile savings, although the cost benefit of these measures has not been demonstrated. In conclusion, atopic dermatitis should not be regarded as a minor skin disorder but as a condition which has the potential to be a major handicap with considerable personal, social and financial consequences both to the family and the community.