Make my hands stop itching!
February 8, 2018 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I've never had any skin allergy problems but oh my god, my hands now get red and itchy and I cannot figure out why. HALP

I don't really use anything scented for handcare or well, anything at all, but it is winter here in Canada and one's mitts do tend to get dry. The following are the only things I put on my skin on a semi-regular to regular basis:

Ivory soap
St. Ives Oatmeal & Shea Butter body lotion
a handmade Rosemary hand butter but I don't really use it

I mean, I cannot figure out why it triggers only in my hands. Nowhere else on my body do I get horrible itching and redness. Oh, I do use an avocado shampoo bar but I never had any trouble with it. This has all started within the past month.

What should I do? Get an allergy test? Try out new lotions? My skin is very dry during this time of year--I have an extra humidifier somewhere in our house, I think--but this is a new phenomenon.
posted by Kitteh to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you hand wash your dishes? Dish soap makes my hands crazy dry and itchy.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:19 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

A reaction I have to some foods I'm allergic to is almost exactly what you describe; have you been eating anything new since it started?
posted by griphus at 1:26 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

My hands crack and bleed frequently unless I fix them with bandaids and topical steroids. Started years ago. Lately I'm thinking that it's exacerbated by my reaction to lactose. I don't have enough data to support that yet. Anyway, I'm also suggesting dishes and food allergy.
posted by turkeybrain at 1:30 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Try Glysomed?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:33 PM on February 8, 2018

All I can say is that this randomly happens to me too and then it goes away. Also, it seems to only happen in the winter but it might not really be random at all and if you can figure the underlying cause that would be best, but I've found that nearly impossible to do. The help I can offer is that using a hydrocortisone cream or eczema cream sorts it right out for me. This also happens to my friend even more often and he takes an antihistamine/allergy tablet which solves the issue for him.
posted by Polychrome at 1:34 PM on February 8, 2018

Popping in to say: I wear dish gloves and I haven't been eating anything new recently. I'm already vegan so it's not lactose-based. There was some interesting flavoured tofu my husband picked up that we ate for two meals in a row. (We eat plain tofu or marinated ourselves tofu on the regular.)
posted by Kitteh at 1:35 PM on February 8, 2018

This happens to my hands whenever I live somewhere with a serious winter. It's usually dry skin caused by cold weather and lots of hand-washing. I put Nivea on my hands every night, wear mittens or gloves every time I go outside, and try not to wash my hands a million times a day. It's not a perfect solution, but it helps a lot.
posted by colfax at 1:37 PM on February 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Cold weather winter eczema is a likely suspect. It can get worse as you get older. Try a hydrocortisone cream or ointment.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:40 PM on February 8, 2018

The Ivory soap you're using--is it liquid or bar? If liquid, try switching to a bar soap for a bit and see if that helps. Any liquid other than pure glycerine soap just trashes my hands.
posted by kate4914 at 1:42 PM on February 8, 2018

Yeah, try just basic bar soap, as liquid soaps can have alcohols in them that are drying. And try the sensitive-skin variant, which is even more gentle, like the Dove bars for sensitive skin.

I'd also say try a different lotion, preferably one without a ton of synthetic ingredients (e.g., JĀSÖN's cocoa butter hand and body lotion). If that improves the situation, then you'll know there was probably something in the current lotion that's an issue for you. Trying an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Allegra (fexofenadine) can be good. I would not recommend Zyrtec (cetirizine) due to the potential for withdrawal itching, which I experienced whenever I'd try to stop taking it, even after a short time.

It's hard to know what you might be sensitive to or whether you actually have eczema or contact dermatitis without seeing a dermatologist and letting them evaluate the type of rash you have. Setting up an appointment might be a good idea, because they can tell you what they think the issue might be and prescribe creams (e.g., triamcinolone acetonide) or strong antihistamines (e.g., Atarax).

There are next steps there that they might take, such as a contact dermatitis patch test like a T.R.U.E. test or the North American 80 Comprehensive Series test. That requires a whole lot of potentially itchy things to be stuck to your back for a few days, then a few more days of potential itching before the test results are "read" in the reaction the skin on your back has to any of the possible allergens. Similarly, you can go to an allergist and get prick testing done for food allergies, where they prepare a board with a bunch of tiny needles with possible food allergens on them and poke your back with it, then see any reaction that develops. You get a little bit more immediate gratification with a food-allergy prick test, 'cause you'll know almost right away if there's something that's an issue. But if you have no food allergies, then it's back to the dermatologist.

For now, if you end up waiting for an initial appointment, I would discontinue current lotions, try sensitive-skin bar soap, and go the simple route of just trying a different lotion. That will give you some more data and maybe even solve the problem. Even something inert like Trader Joe's jojoba oil can be a good option, though you have to make sure you blot your hands after applying it. I got good lotion recommendations recently! If switching moisturizers doesn't do it, try tracking what you eat with a food journaling app, to see if any correlation emerges there as well. I started using "Lose It" and I like its interface a lot; it's specifically geared toward weight loss, but its database is great, and it lets you take a photo of each meal in the app.
posted by limeonaire at 1:54 PM on February 8, 2018

This is a shot in the dark, but do you have a history of poison oak, ivy, or sumac? Or have you recently eaten mangoes, cashews, or pistachios?

I ask because you lately took that job in a hospital, and one of the more commonly used hand disinfectants, benzalkonium chloride, has a structural resemblance to urushiol, the irritant in all those things I mentioned.
posted by jamjam at 2:02 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

When the temp drops and stays quite low(Maine), I can feel my hands getting itchy and miserable, the cuticles crack, nails peel and break. A friend taught me that soy wax will soften on skin warmth, and it provides relief when massaged in. Yes, from a soy candle. I've used Burt's Bees cuticle cream for my whole hand. Hydrocortisone is not a bad idea, Bag balm is recommended often.
posted by theora55 at 2:02 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Dish gloves: what are they made of? can you switch to something different to test for a while?

Anecdata on contact dermatitis: I get a mild red itchy rash on my hands and forearms from various surfaces and have figured out it's an allergy to cleansers. Someone wipes down a table with ??? and I lean my wrist on it, half an hour later I'm red and itchy. Washing even with just plain water usually gives instant relief. I also get it from all perfumes and any soaps/lotions that aren't no dyes/fragrances.
posted by buildmyworld at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2018

I get eczema on my hands, and it tends to flare in winter. Only thing I've found that works on it is Eucerin Original Healing Creme for Very Dry, Sensitive Skin. I use twice daily and it keeps the redness and itching on my hands under control.
posted by COD at 2:07 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have this happen whenever I touch or brush up against anything remotely dusty. It's vile. Don't know how to make it stop except to take Benadryl and pray.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:16 PM on February 8, 2018

Certain liver conditions cause itchy hands
posted by txtwinkletoes at 2:19 PM on February 8, 2018

I am like COD but the one that works for me is Vaseline intensive care Advanced Repair. It's in a white bottle.
posted by freezer cake at 2:42 PM on February 8, 2018

Do you wear rubber gloves, handle anything rubber, or use paints that include a latex base? Because this is what I get when I wear latex gloves, and I have a latex skin allergy. It builds up over time-- I wasn't always allergic but did a lot of work wearing gloves and with mask latex and latex paints in art school, and that eventually got me.

Also, wool and lanolin: do you have gloves that include wool? For some people, wool, lanolin, and animal fibers in general can cause a reaction.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:49 PM on February 8, 2018

Ivory soap may 99.44% pure, but I had a dermatologist said it can be quite harsh on skin. He recommended Dove bar soap, which works well for me.
posted by ShooBoo at 3:16 PM on February 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

Seconding lose the Ivory, my whole body hates it, makes me red and itchy.
posted by mareli at 3:28 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

My hands get red and itchy due to a circulation problem. Do you get chilblains on your hands?
posted by charlen at 4:00 PM on February 8, 2018

Do you wear rings on your fingers? Developing an allergy to certain metals is common.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:57 PM on February 8, 2018

Hand sanitizer? My dad developed cracked and bleeding hands that his doctor could not get a handle on. Discovered months later it was the hand sanitizer coupled with dry winter weather.
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 9:02 PM on February 8, 2018

I'm allergic to stearates, which is in a lot of creams, lotions, soaps and the like. It makes my hands break out something awful and it took me forever to figure out what was causing it. Thankfully a lot of organic and boutique brands don't use them so I can find plenty of stuff without them.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:14 PM on February 8, 2018

Seconding Bag Balm. I smear it all over the back of my hands at night and wear cotton gloves. It is the only thing I've found to help me. I only get this in the winter and it started when I was 48 or so.
posted by marguerite at 10:01 PM on February 8, 2018

Weird, but do you do yoga (or any activity where you put your hands where other people have been)? It might be a reaction either to the mat material or the cleaner, or cross-contamination from someone else.

I'm flagging it, as I realised recently that I am WILDLY allergic to whatever holistic, organic spray cleaner they use for the mats at my yoga center. I've literally never been allergic to anything else in my life - go figure. My whole hands (both!) swelled up; got unbearably itchy; and then shed all of the skin on my fingers and palms. Now I take my own mat, and everything is back to normal.
posted by citands at 3:42 AM on February 9, 2018

Chiming in to agree that it's possible to develop an allergy to something that's mever bothered you before. I get hives from pine derivatives; started when I was 28 or so. Switching out your products is a good idea.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 4:04 AM on February 9, 2018

I had never had any food allergies until a few years ago, when I realized it was drinking red wine that made my hands so itchy I wanted to chop them off.
posted by maggiemae at 5:57 AM on February 9, 2018

I've occasionally had mild dyshidrotic eczema.

You probably do not have this ( it mainly occurs in summer) but the care and treatment of the itchy red dry hands would be similar

It mainly affects the hands only, the palms and sides of the fingers in particular.
Though it can occur on the soles of the feet

It starts as a burning , later itching sensation then turns red and dry.
The tiny blisters are characteristic but can be overlooked initially

No one really knows what causes it, though there are many suspects:
Sensitivity to various metals
Sensitivity to various soaps, detergents. Body wash seems to be a big trigger
Curiously enough, a fungal infection somewhere else ,like athletes foot, can be a factor for some people.

During an episode I've used mainly stuff that eczema sufferers would use.
Plus an antihistamine for the itch.
I 've only had mild effects so didn't require steroids etc.

Now i use Dove sensitive skin soap.
I don't experiment with different soaps or shampoos .
posted by yyz at 2:04 PM on February 9, 2018

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