Dry skin, also known as xerosis, is usually a temporary problem that can easily be treated from home. The hands are often a complaint of dry skin for children since they are regularly exposed to factors that influence the skin's hydration.
Just about everyone has had dry hands at one time or another, so the symptoms are fairly recognizable. The skin may have a rough and dull appearance. There may be flaking or peeling of skin present. Your child may complain of itching, irritation or just an overall sense of feeling uncomfortable. In worst-case scenarios, the hands may crack or even bleed.
Two major causes of dry hands come from environmental influences and hygiene. Dry skin is worst during the winter months, because the air lacks humidity that locks moisture into the skin, says the University of Iowa . The hands are regularly exposed to different climates, such as wind, cold and sun, which can all cause dry skin. Regular hand washing is great for keeping your child healthy; however, it can cause dry hands as well. If your child prefers hot baths, this can also dehydrate the skin.
To treat dry hands, regularly apply a thick moisturizer. Using petroleum jelly on dry hands will give a sufficient amount of moisture to treat the dryness, says the American Academy of Family Physicians . In addition, hydrocortisone cream can help with the itching if the moisturizer is not working alone. Apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly onto your child's hands at night and then have him wear gloves to bed. This will help lock in the moisture, and in most cases you will notice an improvement the following morning.
Not only does applying moisturizer treat dry skin, but it also prevents dryness. However, the thick greasiness of petroleum jelly may feel uncomfortable on hands that are not dry, so a thinner over-the-counter hand cream can be used. Do not decrease the amount of times your child washes his hands since this has too many health benefits for fighting influenza and other contagious viral and bacterial infections. Instead, be sure to apply a hand cream to your child's hands following hand washing. Do not allow hot baths, since this removes protective oils from your child's skin. Keep a humidifier in your home during winter months to keep moisture in the air.
Keep your child's hands clean to reduce the risk of an infection entering deeper layers of the epidermis. If the skin is itching to the point where your child is losing sleep, bleeding or feeling pain, seek assistance from a dermatologist or your family doctor.