Q: Dear Doc, I have been experiencing this for some time. I have been to many skin doctors but all to no avail. It started while I was washing the laundry and dishes, then later my hands at the fingers started scratching me. It itches so badly, my hands turned red and little rashes came out the next day. If I scratch it, it will swell up. I didn’t give it much attention. It later started bringing out pus and boils and water from the open wound. It will dry and leave scar and now, it’s dry, rough and looks as if fire or hot water burned me and it heals and comes back again. So Doc how am I to treat it and what’s the cause?
A: Hello dear, thanks for writing in. Condolences for the problems you have been going through. The only way of knowing what is really wrong with you is for you to see a dermatologist (skin doctor) who will properly examine you, perhaps conduct a patch test and make a diagnosis. If you still have the problem after seeing any particular skin doctor, please seek a second opinion.
Without the benefit of seeing you myself, I think that this could be contact dermatitis. This is a condition in which red, itchy rashes develop on the skin as a result of contact between the skin and some ‘irritant’ substances like detergent and other soaps (as could be the problem here), jewelry, fragrances etc. These rashes usually develop on the area of the skin in direct contact with the irritant and other symptoms apart from rashes include:
- Dry and cracked skin, if this continues for long
- Appearance of pus and development fever which would indicate infection.
Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when a substance you are sensitive to triggers against an immune response on the area of the skin that has been in contact with the substance or it could enter the body through other sources eg food. Examples of substances that could cause this reaction include cosmetics, antibiotic creams, insecticide spray, antibiotic creams etc
Occupational contact dermatitis refers skin rashes due to contact between skin and irritants in the workplace. Examples include cosmetics, cleaning materials etc
The first key in treatment is identifying the irritant or substance that you are allergic to. Whatever it is, stay away from it. For you, try washing dishes and clothes while wearing hand gloves. And moisturize your hands a lot with a good hand moisturizer. If it’s the strap of your wristwatch causing rashes around your wrist, give the wrist watch a rest and later when the rashes have healed, you can change straps or line the inside of the strap with cello tape
Try not to scratch. Very tough, I know! 😀 If the temptation is great, cover the area with sterile dressing. And use cool compresses to cool the area down.
Use lotions that help with itching, like Calamine lotion and if need be, take an anti-histamine to also help reduce the itching.
Depending on where the rashes are, wearing soft cotton clothes will reduce possibility of irritating the rashes.
Given that personal care products like soaps and perfumes have been implicated in this, try to go for unperfumed products to reduce the risk of irritation.
Your doctor may also prescribe some steroid creams, oral medications and/or medications that repair skin.
So, the action point for you now is to see a good dermatologist and take it from there. A good place to start from would be the Teaching Hospital in your area.
Have a great weekend, y’all 😀