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Hand and Foot Dermatitis

Overview

Hand and foot dermatitis is a skin problem. It causes itching, pain, and blisters on the palms of the hands or sides of the fingers, or on the soles of the feet. It can last for several weeks before the blisters dry up and the skin peels. Sometimes the skin turns darker after the blisters heal. If you have flare-ups often, the skin can become red and cracked.

Common triggers include chemicals, like detergents and soaps. Other triggers are having wet or sweaty hands or feet; metals, such as nickel and cobalt; and stress.

People who work with their hands or feet in water are more likely to have hand and foot dermatitis. Some examples are food handlers, cleaners, and hairdressers. The condition isn't contagious.

For some people, this condition may come and go. But flare-ups may be controlled with home care and medical treatment.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor prescribes a cream, ointment, or other medicine, use it exactly as directed. If your doctor suggests a home treatment, such as soaks in Burow's solution, use it as directed.
  • Wash the affected area with water only. Remove rings, watches, and other jewelry first. If you use a cleanser, use one without fragrance or soap. Soap can make dryness and itching worse.
  • Apply a moisturizer or barrier cream as often as you can. Use a cream such as CeraVe or Cetaphil that doesn't irritate the skin or cause a rash. Apply the cream every time after you wash. Apply it while your skin is still damp after drying lightly with a towel.
  • At night, apply petroleum jelly. It protects the skin and keeps it from drying out. If you can, apply it more often.
  • Wear cotton gloves under work gloves when you cook, clean, garden, or work with water.
  • Wear clean, dry socks. Change your socks when they get wet or sweaty. Wearing moisture-wicking socks can help your feet stay dry.
  • Try to figure out if something triggers your symptoms. Avoid things that make them worse, and anything that causes burning or itching.
  • Manage or reduce your stress. Stress can make your symptoms worse.
  • Avoid scratching. This can lead to skin infections, rough patches of skin, or more itching. If itching affects your sleep or your normal activities, ask your doctor about treatments you can try.

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Credits

Current as of: November 16, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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