Due to an increase in awareness about infectious disease and the implementation of measures to prevent them, a significant rise in the usage of products like hand sanitizers has taken place in recent years. While you might find that a few of these products are formulated with moisturizing ingredients, with many of the products, repeated usage can actually dry the skin out.
When the dryness reaches an extreme, you might find yourself with itching, cracking, or irritation of the skin as well which signals the onset of eczema or dermatitis.
Hand Eczema or Hand Dermatitis is the name given to rashes that occur with irritation and itching on the hands. The hand sanitizer example shows one way in which rashes of this type can occur but there are many other settings in which similar eruptions appear.
As a general rule, individuals who do a lot of wet work and wash their hands a lot are more likely to get rashes on the hands. Also, if you experienced eczema during childhood or adolescence then you can be more prone to get rashes on the hands as an adult.
If you are a healthcare worker, cleansing your hands is a mandatory part of the job whether you use disinfectants, antiseptics, or soap and water. Wearing gloves for hand protection is also a basic occupational requirement as well. When you do these type of activities 10, 20, or 30 times a day for months and years, the chance for hand eczema and irritation increases in likelihood. Ingredients in the cleansers, disinfectants, as well as powder or latex from the gloves can all be sources of ingredients that lead to the rashes.
The restaurant worker or bar tender whose hands are frequently wet and washed often are at risk for hand rashes. Hair care professionals who use a variety of chemical products to style and condition the hair are susceptible to getting rashes. The child care worker with daily contact with large numbers of kids has to frequently wash the hands as well.
These are all examples of work environments that you could be involved in that make developing hand rashes a possibility.
If you have a hobby such as gardening with exposure to a variety of plants and flowers, this can also be an activity that makes the development of rashes more likely.
So, what should you do if you find yourself with a rash involving your hands and you work in one of these or similar occupations and you have to do wet work or wash your hands frequently?
Hand protection is number one in terms of the steps to take to help with preventing hand eczema. If you use powder free nitrile gloves, your hands would be protected from a variety of environmental exposures and they will not contribute to worsening or causing hand eczema as can happen with gloves that contain latex or powder.
Next you could use one of a variety of barrier creams and moisturizers to protect the hands. These products are applied before the exposures and reapplied several times during the day to minimize the chance of irritation. Your hands can maintain protection during several washings before the product would need to be applied again.
You might also notice that your hands have a tendency to become dry and chapped more during the winter months. If this happens, use moisturizing products specially formulated for the hands to keep the hands well lubricated and moisturized to help prevent this from happening.
If you use these protective measures and still develop hand irritation, then treatment is necessary with either over the counter or prescription strength anti-inflammatory medications such as topical steroids. The majority of the time a medical visit to your dermatologist is required to get a medication that is really potent enough to heal the thicker skin that can be present on your hands.
Everyone who develops hand eczema does not get immediate clearing with treatment. If you find yourself with a more stubborn problem on your hands then more investigation might be required such as doing testing with a panel of ingredients to see if you are allergic to a specific chemical.
For example using a procedure called patch testing, I have discovered individuals with hand eczema that turned out to be due to printers ink from reading newspapers, chromates in bleach, latex in gloves, and formaldehyde in nail hardeners for example.
On other occasions all of the tests proved to be negative such as the meat cutter who developed hand eczema because he had to do butcher work in a very cold environment carving meat in freezers at work.
With medical treatment and investigation, improvement and healing can be achieved in the majority of cases.
So, no matter what the cause hand protection is mandatory and the hands need to stay clear for at least 6 months to get totally back to normal.
If you find yourself with dry itchy hands, take care of the problem as quickly as possible.