Everyone knows that washing your hands is the most effective way to remove germs and prevent the spread of viruses. So the more you wash your hands, the better, right? Nope, that’s not always the case—I know, because it happened to me. And it sucked.
It started with a little bit of peeling skin on the knuckle of my ring finger. I didn’t think much of it; my skin usually gets dry in the winter. I religiously applied moisturizer after washing my hands, but it didn’t seem to help. The next day, the dry spot turned into a deep, bleeding crack in my knuckle, which spread to a few other fingers. Then, in the middle of the night, itchy, fluid-filled blisters popped up between my fingers. The more moisturizer I applied, the worse it got. Within a few days, 80 percent of my body was covered in intensely itchy, swollen hives.
I went to my dermatologist, fearing the worst. Was it bedbugs? Scabies? Measles? Luckily, he ruled those out immediately and said it looked like a severe allergic reaction. After examining my rash, he asked, “How often do you wash your hands?” I said that if I had to guess, I’d estimate at least 30 times a day—I have an infant, and between the dozens of diaper changes, feedings and pump sessions, I was pretty much always lathering up. I left the office with a prescription for a strong topical steroid cream and a diagnosis of irritant contact dermatitis. The cause? Excessive hand washing, which had created tiny cracks in my skin. I’d also been using a popular hand cream that contains lanolin, which penetrated deeply into my beat-up hands and caused a reaction.
When I got home, I did some research on irritant contact dermatitis.