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Hand Dermatitis

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Hand dermatitis (hand eczema or dyshidrosis are other names which are frequently used for this condition) is common. Typically, it is caused by a combination of unusually sensitive skin and irritation (or allergy) to materials touched. On a daily basis, our hands come in contact with an enormous number of irritating materials. Foods (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, pepper, raw meats, etc.), soaps, detergents, scouring powders, cleansers, solvents, greases, oils, chemicals, glues, and many other substances might irritate the skin. Even water by itself may rob the skin of its natural oils and lead to over dryness and redness.

Individuals differ in their predisposition to develop hand dermatitis. Persons with hand dermatitis often have had dermatitis or eczema elsewhere in the past. Often, there is a history of relatives having had dermatitis. In addition, in certain individuals, stress is known to aggravate the condition. Although we can’t “toughen” our skin, there are effective medicines to help deal with dermatitis. Furthermore, by following the hand protecting directions below, the chance of recurrence can be decreased.


  • Avoiding irritating and sensitizing materials is absolutely necessary in healing your hands. It
    is important that the skin be protected from direct contact with skin irritants by wearing unlined waterproof
    gloves. Vinyl gloves are preferable to rubber gloves since some patients become allergic to rubber gloves.
    These gloves may be purchased at most drugstores, paint stores, and hardware stores. Buy several pairs of
    the proper size so they can be conveniently located in the kitchen, bathroom, workroom, garage, etc. If a
    glove develops a hole, throw it away! A glove with a hole is worse than no glove at all.


  • Although vinyl gloves will prevent contact with irritating materials, they may cause some harm by   
    preventing evaporation of sweat. Therefore, wear thin, washable, cotton glove liners (DERMAL gloves or ALLERDERM gloves) under the waterproof gloves to absorb the perspiration. These cotton gloves can also be worn at bedtime (or during the day) over the prescribed topical therapy. They protect your hands and keep the recommended medicine next to your skin.


  • Try not to do dishes by hand. Use an automatic dishwasher or let another family member do the dishes. Also,
    use a washing machine for laundry. Do not do your laundry by hand.


  • Wash your hands infrequently (when wearing gloves as described above, your hands will not become dirty).
    When you must wash your hands, use lukewarm water with very little mild soap (DOVE, PURPOSE, or
    BASIS). Rinse the soap off carefully and dry gently. Remember that all soaps are irritating. Prior to washing
    your hands, remove all rings. Rings often worsen dermatitis by trapping irritating materials beneath them.


  • Apply moisturizing ointments, creams or lotions frequently throughout the day and after every hand washing.
    Recommended products include Vaseline, Eucerin, cream or lotion, Neutrogena hand cream, Aquaphor, Lubriderm, Crisco Shortening, Lacticare lotion, and Nutraderm lotion.


  • To protect your hands when outdoors in cold or windy weather, wear unlined leather gloves.

  • Do not apply anything to your hands that the doctor has not prescribed (applying the wrong “remedy” might
    make the eruption worse).

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