The skin on the hands is constantly exposed to the elements, making it especially sensitive to dryness and chapping. Children frequently develop severe chapped hands in the winter months, when dry air and artificial heat can both dry out the skin. In most cases, chapped hands are a temporary inconvenience that do not indicate a serious underlying problem. However, if your child's hands get worse or home treatment does not work, consult his pediatrician.
If your child is experiencing skin problems on his hands, it's important to ensure that the symptoms are merely chapped hands and not something more serious. Dry hands may turn red and even bleed. If your child has recently tried a new food, played with new substances or used a new medication, chapped hands could signal an allergic reaction. Chapped hands may also indicate eczema. According to pediatrician Dr. William Sears, this is a chronic dry skin condition common on the hands, feet and face. Consult your pediatrician if your child has dry patches on several spots on her body.
If your child's dry hands are caused by eczema, the cause is a genetically based skin sensitivity. Eczema may be exacerbated by some foods as well as by cold weather. Chapped hands caused by dry skin are frequently caused by excessive hand-washing, cold and dry air, overexposure to heat and thumb-sucking.
Whether your child's chapped hands are caused by eczema or very dry skin, home treatment can improve the condition. Use a moisturizer designed for sensitive skin on your child's hands. Oatmeal baths may help relieve the pain and itching associated with eczema. Petroleum jelly and cocoa butter are effective moisturizers to rub on your child's hands prior to bed. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water; sweetened drinks and dehydration both cause dry skin. Consider installing a humidifier in your child's bedroom during dry winter months.
To prevent future outbreaks of dry skin on the hands, encourage your child to wash her hands only when necessary with a soap containing lotion. Apply moisturizing lotion to your child's hands when she gets out of the shower or bath, and avoid overusing heat and air conditioning, particularly in the car, where the dry air blows directly onto your child's skin.