Hand eczema, which is also known as “housewife’s eczema” is one of the most common occupational skin diseases. Food handlers, hairdressers, nurses and homemakers are particularly vulnerable to this form of skin condition.
What do these occupations have in common?
They require those engaged to immerse their hands in water or use synthetic detergents frequently, which are a leading cause of common eczema.
The detergents result in burning, itching or chapping of fingertips and sometimes even the entire palm. If not attended to, this type of eczema can exaggerate and become serious.
What causes housewife eczema?
Irritants or allergens can cause hand eczema.
By definition, irritants are “any agent capable of producing cell damage in any individual if applied for sufficient time and in sufficient concentration.”
They scrape off keratin and lipids from the outer layer of your skin, damaging the inner layers. This makes the palms chapped, dry and rough. Many ordinary detergents contain such irritants, and you can read all about them here.
In a 2018 study about causes of contact dermatitis (or eczema), 13 per cent of the participants were found to have an allergic reaction to detergents. Another 7 per cent were allergic to fragrance mixes (commonly used in dish soap, laundry liquids, etc.). Allergy to plants too can cause contact dermatitis.
Eczema is generally accompanied by endless itching which results in redness of the skin. But not when it comes to housewife’s eczema.
You may not experience itching but rather, the thinning of skin at your fingertips followed by redness and scaling of it. If not treated, this can spread to the rest of your palms too.
How can you protect yourself from hand eczema?
- Switch to dish soaps and laundry detergents that don’t contain synthetic chemicals, irritants or perfumes. They will keep the keratin and lipids on your palms safe. Click here to get skin-friendly detergents.
- Keep your hands moisturised with natural creams before and during work. A study by Chembolli Lakshmi recommends these skincare products be [without] emulsions, [without] emulsions, tanning agents (cause hardening and increase resistance to irritants
- The author further recommends “post-exposure skin care after work with emollients, moisturisers, humectants (glycerol, sorbitol, urea), lipids (complex mixtures of ceramide, fatty acid, cholesterol). It has to be kept in mind that some ingredients like urea in moisturisers may increase skin permeability and enhance penetration of hazardous substances.”
- If rubber gloves are causing hand eczema, switch to cotton-lined gloves but make sure they are completely dry before use.
- If you are showing symptoms already, minimise the “wet work” with detergents.
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(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)