Hand Dermatitis and Treatment

Hand Protection for Hand Dermatitis

Hand dermatitis (or hand eczema) is common. Hand rashes usually result from a combination of (1) sensitive skin and (2) irritation or allergy from materials touched. Everyone’s hands routinely touch irritating soaps and detergents several times a day. Add the raw foods, solvents, paints, oils, greases, acids, glues, and so on that most of us touch at work or in the home, and you can see that the skin of your hands takes a beating. Not everyone gets hand dermatitis. Many lucky persons have “tough” skin, but, unfortunately, some persons have skin that’s easily damaged. The result is dermatitis. Persons with hand dermatitis often have dermatitis elsewhere, and frequently blood relatives have hand dermatitis. We can’t toughen your skin, but we have effective treatment to heal your dermatitis. Skin protection is an important part of treatment. This instruction sheet gives you detailed directions on how to protect your hands. Please read it carefully and learn them well to fix these instructions in your mind.

1. Protect your hands from direct contact with soaps, detergents, scouring powders, and similar irritating chemicals by wearing waterproof, heavy-duty vinyl gloves. Heavy-duty vinyl gloves such as Allerderm brand are better than rubber latex gloves because you may become allergic to latex. Heavy-duty vinyl gloves are usually available at paint and hardware stores. Buy four or five pairs so they can be conveniently located in kitchen, bathroom, and laundry areas. If a glove develops a hole, discard it immediately. Wearing a glove with a hole is worse than wearing no gloves at all.

2. The waterproof, heavy-duty vinyl gloves may be lined or unlined. You should have enough waterproof gloves so that the insides of the gloves can dry between wearings.

3. Wear waterproof gloves while peeling and squeezing lemons, oranges, or grapefruit, while peeling potatoes, and while handling tomatoes.

4. Wear leather or heavy-duty fabric gloves when doing dry work and gardening. Dirty your gloves, not your hands. If you keep house for your family, scatter a dozen pairs of cheap cotton gloves about your home and use them while doing dry housework. When they get dirty, put them in the washing machine. Wash your gloves, not your hands.

5. If you have an automatic dishwasher, use it as much as possible. If you don’t, let a member of your family do the dishes or wear heavy vinyl gloves.  Dish detergent that removes oil well will really irritated your hands and deplete your skin of all its protective oil.   Do your laundry by machine, not by hand.

6. Avoid direct contact with turpentine, paint thinner, paints, and floor, furniture, metal, and shoe polishes. They contain irritating solvents. When using them, wear heavy-duty vinyl gloves.

7. If your hands are frequently exposed to solvents and other irritating chemicals, especially at work, ask an industrial hygienist about protective gloves.

8. When washing your hands, use lukewarm water and very little mild soap. Rinse the soap off carefully and dry gently. Although all soaps are irritating, some are less irritating than others.  The alcohol in supposedly “antibacterial” soaps can be very irritating to people with sensitive skin.

9. Rings and other jewelry often worsen dermatitis by trapping irritating materials beneath them. Remove your rings when doing housework and before washing your hands.

10. When you are outdoors in cold or windy weather, wear cotton lined gloves to protect your hands from drying and chapping.

11. The most important part of your treatment is to apply a lubricating, mild cortisone cream to your hands many times a day. You should apply this medicated hand lubricant after each handwashing and as often as possible at other times—at least 15 times each day. Apply the medicated hand lubricant very thinly to your whole hand like a hand cream, and massage it in well.

12. Do not apply any cream, lotion, or ointment to your hands except the one prescribed for you. There is one exception: If your skin is still too dry, you may apply plain white petrolatum (Vaseline) thinly after rubbing in your medicine.

13. Use only the prescribed medicines and lubricants. Do not use other lotions, creams, or medications—they may irritate your skin.

14. Protect your hands for at least 4 months after your dermatitis has healed. It takes a long time for skin to recover; unless you are careful, the dermatitis will recur.

There is no fast, “magic” treatment for hand dermatitis. Your skin must be given a rest from irritation. Follow these instructions carefully.