Help with Hand Dermatitis
I am literally being being over run by hand dermatitis in clinic and text messages from friends and family. One consequence of the COVID pandemic has an increase in hand washing and cleaning product use, and with that comes an increase in hand dermatitis. Hand dermatitis presents with dry, itchy, red, peeling hands and even some deep painful fissures in the skin. This rash can be itchy for some and painful for others.
In the past, I often thought of this condition as "new mom dermatitis" or "cleaning dermatitis" as it is something we commonly see when people start using more cleaning products and wipes when a new baby arrives or a person gets a new job that requires them to wipe down tables or do more cleaning. Now, I am seeing many healthcare workers, teachers, and really everyone coming in with these symptoms. Frequent hand washing, although necessary, is the main driver in many of these rashes. There are other conditions that can lead to hand dermatitis, but they are less common.
Here are a few tips that I share with my patients:
Pick your products carefully. Use fragrance fee cleansers and moisturizers. You may have to bring your own soap and moisturizer in to work or school. You would be surprised how much of a difference that alone can make. May places are using harsh, antibacterial soaps that contain many different allergens and irritants.
Avoid excessive water exposure. Make sure to wear gloves when you are washing dishes or cleaning, or have any prolonged exposure to water (even bathing kids for some).
At night, apply a thick greasy emollient such as vaseline, aquaphor, vanicream, or cerave. These thick products with glycerin or ceramides help repair the skin barrier. I also recommend getting white cotton gloves (available on Amazon or your local pharmacy) and putting those on top to hold the emollient on and keep you from greasing your furniture. If you can sleep in that, great; if you can't, at least try to do this for an hour or two while you watch TV.
If you cracks or deep fissures, you can use a product like liquid bandaid to seal the cracks.
If your hands are still dry and itchy, despite these measures, contact your dermatologist for a prescription strength steroid to help with the inflammation and itching. The skin on the hands is quite thick, and often times a stronger steroid is necessary to really help the problem.
If your rash is persistent despite prescription steroids, you are likely still being exposed to your allergen and will need further work up. See a dermatologist for further evaluation and treatment.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Please feel free to leave questions below.