Is Handwashing Drying Your Child’s Skin?

A rash on their hands might mean that you have to change how your kids wash their hands and not that they have to wash less often.

Do your kids get dry, red, and itchy hands, especially during the winter months when it gets cold?

Hand sanitizier and handwashing may be drying your child's skin.

Believe it or not, it’s probably because they are washing their hands very frequently, which is a good thing these days.

Is Handwashing Drying Your Child’s Skin?

Of course, many other things could be causing a rash on your child’s hands, but if the rash is on both hands, is worse each winter, and there are no other symptoms, then it is probably from handwashing.

Is it from excessive handwashing?

Not necessarily.

“The best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands with plain soap and water, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose. There is currently no evidence that consumer antiseptic wash products (also known as antibacterial soaps) are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients could do more harm than good in the long-term and more research is needed.”

Q&A for Consumers | Hand Sanitizers and COVID-19

You might just need to change up how your child washes their hands, making sure that they:

  • use a moisturizing soap (Dove, Basis) or soap-free cleanser (Cetaphil, Vanicream Free & Clear), avoiding harsher, antibacterial soaps
  • apply moisturizers (Aquaphor, Vanicream, Cetaphil, Cerave, Eucerin) within a few minutes of washing, keeping in mind that greasy ointments typically are the best, followed by creams, and then lotions, although kids sometimes don’t like the feel of greasy ointments
  • avoid the frequent use of hand sanitizers, as they contain high concentrations of alcohol and can be drying, so limit the use of hand sanitizers to when soap and water isn’t available and even then, try to use a hand sanitizer with a moisturizer

But what if your child’s hands do get red and irritated? Simply applying a moisturizer probably isn’t going to be much help then, is it?

Probably not, so that’s when it’s time to also apply a steroid cream to calm the flare up. While you can start with over-the-counter hydrocortizone cream twice a day (don’t apply at same time as the moisturizers), you might need a medium strength prescription steroid cream for all but the mildest cases. In some cases, a more potent steroid might even be needed for a short time.

And of course, you should think about what else might be causing a rash on your child’s hands, especially if they aren’t quickly getting better with steroids and moisturizers:

  • does your child also have ulcers in their mouth or a rash on their feet, which might indicate Hand Foot and Mouth disease?
  • has your child recently been bitten by a tick?
  • does your child have a honey colored crusty rash on one hand, a sign of impetigo?
  • is your child working with new chemicals, solvents, wearing gloves, or doing anything else that could be triggering an allergic reaction or contact dermatitis on their hands?
  • do other people in the house have an itchy rash on their hands and arms, which could be a sign of scabies?

Fortunately, hand dermatitis from excessive hand washing and cold winter weather is typically easy to diagnosis and treat and isn’t often confused with other pediatric conditions.

More on Hand Dermatitis

Mixed Messages About COVID-19

Don’t let mixed messages about COVID-19 leave you confused or get in your way of preparing your family for this new pandemic.

Do you feel like you are getting mixed messages about COVID-19?

Don’t stockpile things, but be prepared.

Don’t wear a mask, but avoid other people so you don’t get sick.

It’s just like a bad flu, but states are declaring states of emergency and countries are restricting travel.

Mixed Messages About COVID-19

Are you confused yet?

Are you wondering why we continue to see new cases?

Have you forgotten that we were warned that SARS-CoV-2 would likely become a pandemic?

“With the inexorable spread of 2019-nCoV, we are again upset about the way officials and reporters are talking about containment. We think it is crucial to try to prepare the public for the very high likelihood that containment WILL FAIL, if what we mean by “containment” is that we might be able to stop a pandemic.”

Risk Communication about Containment – 2019 Novel Coronavirus

Shouldn’t we have been able to stop it if we had warning?

Although ideally we would have contained SARS-CoV-2 before we started to see community spread, the more realistic goal has been slowing down its spread.

Containment measures can help to flatten the curve in a pandemic, buying everyone some more time to get ready.

Slowing down its spread will help prevent everyone from getting sick all at once so that doctors and hospitals don’t get overwhelmed.

Wait, is everyone going to get sick?

That’s probably another thing about COVID-19 that has you confused.

And the answer is almost certainly no.

There likely won’t be constant exponential growth and like many other respiratory diseases, this one will hopefully end at some point.

We shouldn’t expect exponential growth of COVID-19, which means that everyone isn’t going to get it over the next few months.

It is also very important to understand that most of the people who do get sick will have a mild illness.

So if we can’t stop it and most cases are mild, then why are we declaring emergencies, closing schools, and canceling some large community events?

“That this disease has caused severe illness, including illness resulting in death is concerning, especially since it has also shown sustained person-to-person spread in several places.”

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

It is because we are still learning about this new virus and we already know that it can cause severe, even life-threatening disease, in some people.

Why are we trying to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic?

So what should you do?

“Call your doctor: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately.”

Prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick

Be prepared.

There is a lot of good information out there from the CDC, WHO, and your local and state health department to help you get prepared for COVID-19.

Most importantly, be smart and do all of the common sense things that we always talk about that can help keep you from getting sick, like washing your hands and not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, etc.

And if you are in a high risk group, or have frequent contact with someone in a high risk group, you should likely be a little extra careful to help reduce your chances of getting COVID-19. That’s when you might take the extra steps of avoiding crowds and limiting contact with others, etc.

“Stay home: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.”

Prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick

What’s next?

As testing becomes more widely available in the coming days and weeks, you can almost certainly expect to hear about more and more cases in more and more parts of the United States.

Don’t be surprised.

Be prepared.

More on Mixed Messages About COVID-19