Is Your Hand Sanitizer Causing Hand Dermatitis?

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective reducing the spread of disease, but overuse can lead to severe hand dermatitis.

Hand Sanitiser Cloud

They’re everywhere: airports, schools, hospitals, movie theaters, and on many people’s key chains and backpacks: hand sanitizers.

A recent article in Cosmetic Dermatology titled “Rethinking Hand Sanitizers” looks at the benefits and drawbacks of hand sanitizers.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers when used properly do help prevent the spread of disease.  They’ve been endorsed by the World Health Organization and have played an important role in reducing the impact influenza and other infections.

Unfortunately, hand sanitizers are also a major cause of hand dermatitis which can lead to severe dryness, burning, redness, and cracked, bleeding skin.

So, should you stop using hand sanitizers? Not yet. They’re still less drying than soap-and-water hand washing. Instead, try this: Use hand sanitizers when necessary. And moisturize frequently.

If you develop a raging case of hand dermatitis, then follow these steps:

1. Stop using hand sanitizers, unless absolutely necessary.

2. Treat your hands to thick moisturizing creams, such as Neutrogena Hand Cream, and apply repeatedly throughout the day.

3. At night, apply a thick moisturizing cream or a healing ointment such as Aquaphor to your hands and wear cotton gloves to trap moisture in the skin.

4. It may take up to 2-3 weeks for your hands to heal at which point you can start to safely use your hand sanitizer again. But don’t stop the moisturizing, unless you want to keep repeating steps 1-3.

Here’s a video that shows you how to properly use hand sanitizer.

Photo credit: FCC, bratha

Can You Be Allergic To the Sun?

You know that the sun increases the risk of skin cancer for most people. You probably don’t know that for some people, the sun is the source of a terrible itchy rash — they’re allergic to the sun.

The radiation from the sun triggers some response in everyone’s skin. In some, the radiation triggers an immune reaction, leading to red, itchy, burning bumps. There are several diseases that are caused by sun which lead to rashes. Here are a few:

Polymorphous Light Eruption (PMLE): This is the  most common. It is usually characterized by tiny, itchy red bumps that develop on the arms, neck and face hours after sun exposure. It is often seen in the spring and occurs more frequently in young people.

Actinic Prurigo: This is seen as itchy red bumps that occur mostly in children who are sensitive to the sun. Like PMLE, it occurs mostly on the face (including lips), arms, and hands. It can be more severe than PMLE and can lead to scarring in rare instances.

Chronic Actinic Dermatitis: This usually affects adults. It starts in areas exposed to the sun, but can spread to other areas. It is often terribly itchy and can be triggered by sunlight even though car windows.

Solar hives (urticaria): These are itchy pink whelts that develop within minutes of sun exposure. The rash develops quickly and fades quickly but can be intensely itchy. Antihistamines such as Zyrtec (ceterizine) or Benedryl (diphenhydramine) can help.

There are other sun-induced diseases, including ones triggered by medications. I’ll write about them in a future post. In all of these conditions, the most important thing to remember is to avoid sun exposure as much as possible. If you develop an itchy or burning rash after sun exposure, then see your physician for an exam and for advice.

Photo: Sandman (flickr)

Itchy This Morning? You Might Be Allergic To Your Couch.

Have you been lying on that couch all weekend? You might end up with a rash.

People in northern Europe have been suffering under the plague of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano. And if that weren’t enough, their sofas are giving them rashes. Recently dermatologists in Finland and Sweden have been seeing patients with a strange, itchy rash all over their bodies. Like an episode of House, no one could figure it out until doctors put together that everyone with the rash had recently bought a new sofa or couch. Extensive testing revealed that people were allergic to a preservative that was used to prevent mold growth when the furniture was shipped. The preservative, dimethyl fumarate (DMF) was released from the material when it became warm, as when you lie on it watching the Red Sox and the Celtics all weekend.

It does not appear that DMF dermatitis is widespread in the United States, but it has been reported on feet from athletic shoes that were shipped using the same preservative. We dermatologists are now aware and will be vigilant looking for this allergen.

So if you get up from the sofa and discover that you’re itchy, don’t blame the dog. It might not be his fault, this time.

Photo: Spartography (flickr)

Itchy Rash? Stop Blaming Your Laundry Detergent

One of the first things that patients do when they develop an itchy rash is to change their laundry detergents to hypoallergenic or fragrance free. For some reason, it is widely believed that laundry detergent is a common cause of skin allergy. It’s not true. Continue reading “Itchy Rash? Stop Blaming Your Laundry Detergent”