Hand or Dyshidrotic Eczema the Increase how to Treat

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hand eczema

Last updated 02/23/2020

Hand eczema also called hand dermatitis is a common condition. Hand eczema is not contagious meaning it can’t be passed from one person to the next.


During the COVID pandemic the CDC and WHO informed everyone to wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer. But this increased hand eczema according to a 2020 study. As a result, this condition grew among essential workers.


People working in healthcare, hair stylist, cleaners and mechanics that are in contact with chemicals and water usually become affected.

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis.

The irritation from frequent hand washing can cause severe pain and even bleeding. Symptoms can be managed but there is no cure.

Concerning eczema hand washing is generally better than using hand sanitizer (most contain alcohol) be sure to read labels. Then applying moisturizer each time after hand washing can help with the drying effects. Don’t forget to have a tube handy in your bag at all times. Applying moisturizer to keep skin from dehydrating is key.

Also with COVID-19 it is important that you clean and/or sanitize your containers on the outside that travel with you or that you use at work. Otherwise there may be harmful germs left on these surfaces.

We know stress can affect many skin conditions and with eczema it can contribute to the drying effect even without the harsh products.

This condition can affect a person’s self-esteem and possibly their job performance. For our hands are often noticeable.

Proper hygiene with hand washing to prevent the spread out weighs the irritation associated with these products.

Symptoms of Hand Eczema

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Very dry skin prone to peeling and flaking
  • Cracks
  • Blisters

Pompholyx or Dyshidrotic Eczema

Another subtype of eczema is pompholyx also called dyshidrotic eczema (or vesicular palmoplantar eczema). It actually affects the feet as well as hands. A sudden rash on palms and along sides of fingers also appears on soles of feet or the toes.

Symptoms are tiny, very itchy blisters usually seen as clusters on the palms of hands. They may be accompanied with itching and burning pain before appearing. Skin could be red and cracked.

There may be sweating around the blisters. These can last for three to four weeks before going away. Dyshidrotic eczema often affects women versus men. For most people it may occur once or be a chronic condition.

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of dyshidrotic eczema. About half with DE also have contact and atopic dermatitis. It usually occurs between ages 20 to 40. More likely if you have allergies like hay fever, a family history or other forms of eczema.

Nails can also thicken and change colors.

The condition could be mild to severe. If sever and affecting your feet this makes walking difficult. On the hands it can interfere with cooking, typing or washing dishes affecting your quality of life. Dyshidrotic eczema can be a debilitating lifelong disease.

Common triggers:

  • Shampoo or soap
  • Nickel or cobalt
  • Stress
  • Sweat
  • Temperatures
  • Frequent hands in water

You should consult your dermatologist if you think you have dyshidrotic eczema.

hand eczema
hand eczema female wearing gloves and cleanser bottles in view photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Treatment for Dyshidrotic Eczema

In treating it is best to figure out the trigger to avoid. If you know a substance at home or work is triggering your hand eczema you can have your dermatologist do a patch test. This will help figure out which allergens and irritants are causing your triggers.

Even your behaviors or practices could be contributing to your hand eczema. Your dermatologist can also suggest ways to avoid or change these.

Measures could be followed to protect your hands at home and work. Being consistent with a daily routine to care and manage will help.

Your dermatologist can order a prescription of an ointment or cream containing a steroid like prednisone. This will help decrease swelling and heal the blisters. With severe cases you may be given prednisone as a pill.

To help with the itch an antihistamine such as Benadryl, Alavert or Claritin may be taken.

Light-therapy is the use of ultraviolet (UV) light to clear up your skin. A medication may be given first helping your skin respond better to this light.

Botox injections can help stop the sweating on your hands and feet which can trigger the blisters.

Draining the blisters if bothersome can be done by your dermatologist. If you do this on your own you could make matters worse.

Emollients and occlusive are important to include as your treatment for eczema. Hand eczema can be managed with medicine, moisturizers and good hygiene.

Hand Eczema Routine to follow at Home

  • You should always remove your finger rings before hand washing
  • Avoid waterless, antibacterial soaps
  • Use cool water and non-fragrant cleansers
  • If sanitizing isn’t necessary, use same cleanser without water and gently blot excess off
  • Apply a moisturizer in an ointment or cream form (thicker, can be greasy)
  • Keeping a moisturizer at every sink will remind you to apply
  • At night, apply ointment or cream (or thick layer of petroleum jelly will do) and gloves before bed. This allows time to penetrate skin.

Things to Pack in Bag for Hand Eczema

To relieve stress: stress balls, fidget cubes or spinners. Objects to busy your hands and help with stress and anxiety may decrease triggers. Clean these regularly.

Lotions and moisturizers to retain moisture and keep skin from dehydrating. Petroleum jelly can be used as a quick spot treatment on small patches of skin or lips.

Hand creams are thicker. Look for fragrance-free. Buy small bottle from dollar store to put your favorite in if you can’t find in travel size.

Hand soaps free of fragrance and dyes. Some even add moisturizers. Avoid antibacterial soaps and gels.

Band-Aid in a pinch will keep you from scratching that red and dry spot. You should never apply a dry version to any infected eczema area. Ask your dermatologist for a special wet bandage and how to apply them at home.

hand eczema
hand eczema female wearing gloves cleaning counter photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Hand Eczema Routine to follow at Work

  • Avoid same cleansers you would at home and also any industrial cleansers. These have ingredients that are allergens or irritants that are hand eczema triggers.
  • Bring your own cleanser and moisturizer to use
  • Use a paper towel to pat dry versus air drying
  • Wear heavy-duty vinyl or neoprene gloves with cotton glove liners to protect your hands at work
  • If these are disposable toss, vinyl gloves and cotton liners need to be washed regularly.
  • Take care of all hand wounds right away (even minor cuts) with a Band-Aid to keep away irritations from allergens or other substances.

The Best Moisturizers for Hand Eczema

Purchase moisturizers with little water which evaporates and dries out skin. These are usually your ointments and creams; like a greasy ointment is petroleum jelly. It helps seal in moisture.

Because these are greasy you want to apply before bed and not at work. It may prevent you from doing certain task.

Essential Oils that can Help Hand Eczema

Jojoba doesn’t have much of a fragrance. Test a small sample before using. Herbs may cause allergic reactions.

  • Jojoba oil has anti-inflammatory qualities and can repair your skin barrier
  • Coconut oil. In children with eczema it has been shown to reduce the severity when it was applied twice a day.
  • Shea butter also is anti-inflammatory along with antioxidant qualities.
  • German chamomile oil has also been shown to reduce symptoms of eczema.
  • Borage oil can improve the skin barrier function.

Is your eczema flaring more with COVID-19? What have you done?

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Header Photo female holding spray bottle photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fourteen years.
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