Section : Skin Conditions

Hand eczema

Dr Christophe Hsu – dermatologist. Geneva, Switzerland

What is Hand Eczema ?

  • Hand Eczema is a common skin condition affecting patients of all ages, especially young adults. It may be caused by
  1. Constitutional factors that is, an inherently sensitive skin.
  2. Irritation from too much exposure to wet work, detergents, oils and greases, solvents etc at home or in the workplace.
  3. Contact allergy to a specific substance eg. Cement, nickel, lanolin etc. or a combination of the above factors.
  4. Hand eczema is unlikely to be caused by diet. The eating of seafood as a cause of hand eczema, is a misconception. It is also not an infective condition, and will not spread to other people.

Your Doctor will:

  • Prescribe wet dressings, medicated creams, or ointments or tablets to suppress the eczema.
  • Advise you on how to avoid irritants at home and in the workplace.
  • Help you uncover any contact allergy that is causing or aggravating the hand eczema. This is done by skin allergy testing. (Patch test and prick test).
Chronic contact eczema (dermatitis) of the hands

Chronic contact eczema (dermatitis) of the hands

You on your part should:

  • Assist your doctor by telling him the substances you come into contact with at home and in the workplace. These include cosmetics and skin care products, as well as medication used on the skin.

When doing housework:

  • Protect yourself from wetwork by wearing plastic or rubber gloves. Do not get the inside of the gloves wet. Do not wear the gloves for a prolonged period of time.
  • Avoid handling fruits, vegetables and raw meat. Use gloves to prepare these foods.
  • Avoid washing dirty diapers with the bare hands. Do not squeeze floor mops with bare hands.
  • When doing dry dirty work, wear cotton gloves.
  • Use hand moisturizer often.

In the workplace:

  • Do not come into prolonged contact with water, coolants, oils, greases and solvents. Wear rubber or plastic gloves if it is safe to do so.
  • Do not wear cotton gloves when doing wetwork. These soak up the irritants and worsen the problem.
  • Do not use diesel or solvents to wash your hands. Use a gentle soap.
  • Use hand moisturizers after work.

If you have a specific allergy:

  • If you have a specific allergy to a substance, avoid contact with this completely. Ask your doctor to tell you the sources of the substance you are allergic to.


Dr Christophe HSU – dermatologist. Geneva, Switzerland

National Skin Centre. Singapore

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