What causes hand dermatitis?
Hand dermatitis, also known as hand eczema, is extremely common. Hands perform so many different tasks day-to-day, so they are routinely exposed to irritating agents. Hand rashes usually result from a combination of sensitive skin and irritation (or allergy) from materials.
Patients with hand dermatitis often suffer from dermatitis elsewhere on the body, or have a family history of hand dermatitis.
The condition can be well treated and managed when the right precautions are followed.
How do I protect my skin from hand dermatitis?
Skin protection is an important part of treatment. The following instructions give you detailed directions on how to develop effective daily habits to improve the condition.
- Protect your hands from direct contact with soaps, detergents, scouring powders, and similar irritating chemicals by wearing waterproof, heavy-duty vinyl gloves (such as the Allerderm brand*). Vinyl gloves seem to be more effective than rubber gloves, because many patients experience allergic reactions to rubber. If a glove develops a hole, discard it immediately. Wearing a glove with a hole is worse than wearing no gloves at all. Have enough waterproof gloves on hand so that you may always use a dry pair.
- Washable cotton gloves may be used as an absorbent liner under vinyl gloves. Wear waterproof gloves while peeling and squeezing lemons, oranges, or grapefruit, and while feeling potatoes and handling tomatoes.
- Wear leather or heavy-duty gloves when performing daily tasks such as cleaning and gardening. An important rule of thumb is to wear gloves often, and wash gloves often with a non-irritating detergent.
- If you have an automatic dishwasher, use it as much as possible. If not, the task should be delegated to another member of the family. Wash your laundry in a machine, not by hand.
- Avoid direct contact with turpentine, paint thinner, paints, and floor, furniture, metal, and shoe polishes. When using them, wear vinyl gloves to protect your hands from the irritating solvents.
- When washing your hands, use lukewarm water and very little mild soap. Rinse the soap off carefully and pat dry gently.
- Remove your rings when doing housework and before washing your hands, as they can often trap irritating materials beneath them.
- When outdoors in cold or windy weather, wear lined leather gloves to protect your hands from drying and chapping.
- Use only prescribed topical medications and lubricants. Do not use other lotions, creams, or medications as they may irritate your skin.
- Protect your hands for at least four months after your dermatitis has healed. It takes a long time for skin to recover, and the dermatitis may recur if you are not careful.
There is no fast, “magic” treatment for hand dermatitis. Your skin must be given a rest from irritation to heal. For best results, follow these instructions carefully.
*Available from Allerderm Laboratories, Inc.
P.O. Box 931, Mill Valley, CA 94942-0931
Chicago Office, (312) 263-4625
Bourbonnais Office, (815) 933-2227