Peeling skin on your child’s hands can be painful and embarrassing. It can occur due to direct skin damage, such as excessive sun exposure, injury or infection. However, it can also be the symptom of a more serious medical condition. Therefore, it is important to understand what causes skin to peel and how it can be remedied.
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The Mayo Clinic explains that peeling of the skin on your child’s hands may be accompanied by other symptoms. The top layer of skin, called the epidermis, may also show signs of dryness, itching and a rash. In some cases, such as when peeling skin is caused by a skin condition such as psoriasis, the skin may be thicker with silvery white patches or scales.
According to the book “Symptoms, Their Causes & Cures," peeling skin on the hands can be the result of a sunburn, common dryness associated with harsh soaps or weather, irritation caused by household cleansers and chemicals and excessive use of prescription acne and wrinkle medications such as retinol. In addition, skin conditions like eczema--where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells--and psoriasis--an inherited condition that causes dead skin cells to build up--can cause skin to peel.
Often, peeling skin can be treated at home by using moisturizing lotions containing lactic acid and urea daily. In addition, baby oil rubbed into damp skin can help prevent water evaporation and remains on the skin longer than regular lotions. A doctor may also be able to prescribe stronger lotions and ointments that contain hydrocortisone, coal tar, salicylic acid, vitamin D or anthralin to treat dry, peeling skin on the hands.
Tell your child not to pick at any peeling skin, even if it's tempting to remove it this way. Dr. Guy Webster in the book “Symptoms, Their Causes & Cures” explains that this can just promote infection. "And if you have a skin disease like eczema or psoriasis, peeling the skin back can damage tissue and worsen the underlying skin problem," he states. Instead, cut off the lose skin with a pair of surgical scissors.
Although dry skin is typically not a cause for alarm, the Mayo Clinic warns that a doctor or dermatologist should be sought if your child’s peeling skin worsens or does not improve with home treatment. In addition, seek medical attention if peeling skin is accompanied by unintentional weight loss, a high temperature, chronic fatigue or muscle aches. These symptoms can be a sign of a serious infection or illness.