Dermatitis on the hands - tips on how to help yourself

This document is intended for use after a consultation with a Doctor, and only if you have been advised to make use of the information it contains.

Hand washing: Try to avoid washing too much, particularly if you live in a hard-water area. Use tepid water and soap without perfume, colouring or added chemicals. Dry carefully after, especially between fingers.

When doing wet work: Wear cotton gloves under rubber gloves (or plastic if you are allergic to rubber). Try not to use hot water and cut down to 15 minutes at a time if possible. Remove rings before wet or dry work. Use running water if possible.

Wear gloves in cold weather and for dusty work.

Only use ointments prescribed for you.

Use "moisturers" or emollients which have been recommended by your doctor to counteract dryness. If your skin is dry, put on plenty of these creams.

Things to avoid

  • Shampoo
  • Peeling fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits
  • Polishes of all kinds
  • Solvents - e.g. white spirit, thinners, turpentine
  • Hair lotions, creams, and dyes
  • Detergents and strong cleansing agents
  • "Unknown" chemicals.
Infected Dermatitis
Dermatitis often gets worse because it has become infected. There may be cracks in the skin, crusting, or some pus or weeping. Seek medical advice if this occurs, as you will probably require a course of antibiotics. You may be prescribed antibiotic/steroid creams, and/or permanganate soaks. Potassium permanganate can be bought cheaply from the chemist. A few crystals can be put into warm water, enough to turn it to the colour of a rose wine. You should soak your hands in this twice daily for 10-15 minutes. However, you should be aware that this can stain skin for a short time and can also stain clothing.

Steroid creams/ointments
These may be necessary to use and will be safe if used as directed by the doctor. They are best used regularly and in adequate quantity for a week or two. Then you can go down to a weaker steroid, or simple emollient. This "pulse treatment" reduces possible side effects of long-term constant use of such creams.

Further information

This article published on
25 November 2005

Next review date 11/1/2013


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