2017-01-01 / OnCall

Helping Hands

Stacy Klepeiss, MD

Q: In winter, my hands become so dry and cracked, and the condition only gets worse because I wash my hands frequently to avoid getting sick. What are some ways to prevent or protect severely chapped hands?

A: Between washing hands more frequently to prevent illness and the dry air due to lower humidity and indoor heating, winter can be hard on your hands.

Once your hands are chapped and cracked, everything you do from cleaning the house, doing dishes or walking in the cold without gloves can make them feel worse.

Some things you can do to prevent chapped hands are:

• Avoid washing hands with hot water and limit handwashing as much as possible.

• When you do wash your hands, use mild soaps with added glycerin and rinse completely. Soap residue can cause drying and worsen chapped, cracked hands.

• Use a thick moisturizing cream immediately after washing your hands.

• Wear gloves to clean, especially dishes, and when you go out into the cold. Harsh cleaning chemicals can dry out your hands and cold temperatures rapidly deplete the skin of moisture.

If you already have chapped, cracked hands, you need to protect them from further irritation.

• Apply a moisturizing cream as often as possible throughout the day. In general, the thicker and greasier the cream, the better.

• As an overnight healing treatment, rub a layer of Vaseline ointment onto your hands, including the backs and in between your fingers, and put on a pair of cotton or plastic gloves.

• Superglue or liquid bandage can be used to glue cracks or fissures back together and help them heal faster.

If your hands are still dry and cracked, you may want to see a dermatologist. A dermatologist can determine if your dry skin may be caused by an underlying condition, such as eczema, and can prescribe stronger ointments to treat irritated skin.

Stacy Klepeiss, MD
Geisinger Scenery Park

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