Rashes due to hand washing

Children are taught at an early age that hand washing is a vital part of daily hygiene. Both children and adults should wash their hands before eating meals, after using the restroom and any time the hands are dirty such as playing or working outside. The healthcare experts clearly state that hand washing can help minimize the spread of germs, particularly during the cold and flu season.

Hand washing has a number of benefits to minimize the transmission of infections. On the other hand, many individuals who wash hands several times in a day such as healthcare workers often develop rashes on their hands. In reality, some healthcare workers develop hand rashes due to constant hand washing.

What are the symptoms of hand washing reactions?

Individuals who develop rashes due to constant hand washing can experience symptoms such as flaking, redness, cracking, blister formation and chronic skin thickening. Itchiness and pain can also occur.


For those who wash their hands constantly in a day, the hand rashes are triggered by an irritant effect. and tingling, numbness or burning sensation in the fingers or hand.

These changes in the skin typically occur on the back of the hands as well as the space in between the fingers. The skin on the palm is relatively thicker and more resistant to irritants. The hand rashes might occur throughout the year, but worse during the cold, dry winter months, possibly due to the warm water being used that contributes to the irritating effect on the skin.

Possible causes of hand rashes from hand washing

For those who wash their hands constantly in a day, the hand rashes are triggered by an irritant effect. In most cases, the rashes are caused by skin irritation while some have atopic dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.  Even though some blame the rashes to alcohol-based hand cleansers, these rarely cause contact dermatitis. Take note that these cleansers can cause stinging or burning, but usually due to an already broken or irritated skin.

Other possible causes of hand rashes that can worsen due to hand washing include contact dermatitis by chemicals present in moisturizers and soaps.

Treatment and prevention

The hand rashes due to constant hand washing can be prevented by reducing the irritant effect. Even though this might seem difficult for those who are required to wash hands frequently, the answer is to increase the use of alcohol-based hand cleansers.

Hand washing using water and soap is needed when the hands are evidently dirty. The alcohol-based cleansers should be used when disinfection is the objective since they cause less irritation on the skin than the repetitive use of water and soap.

The treatment of hand rashes due to hand washing involves constant moisturizing such as at the end of a work shift or before going to bed. There are ointment-based moisturizers that are highly effective. In addition, topical corticosteroid ointments and creams can be used especially if the individual is diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis or dyshidrotic dermatitis.


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