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Caught red-handed, but know you haven’t committed a crime? Unless maybe Instagram stalking and obsessive retweeting has reached convict-level status.
So, you’ve got a rash on your palm(s) that itches, burns, or has developed bumps. Even if it’s not as red as MAC’s Ruby Woo, these symptoms indicate you may have a palm rash.
The causes of palm rashes range in severity, but most are not a sign of a more serious health condition. A palm rash can indicate an infection or a reaction to an irritant.
Even if symptoms are mild, itchy hands are annoying — you use your beloved hands to do just about everything. In order to get your hands back into scrolling form, let’s start with the possible causes.
- allergic reaction
- contact dermatitis
- dry skin
- hand, foot, and mouth disease
- eczema and dyshidrosic eczema
An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system decides to defend you against things that don’t normally pose a threat — like eggs, or your cat.
An allergy to a food or medication can develop at any time. If either are a possibility, you should contact your doctor right away.
If the reaction is mild and more annoying than painful, consult your doctor before you stop taking your pills, as that might cause other problems.
Common allergy symptoms that may accompany a palm rash:
- itchy mouth
- difficulty breathing
- difficulty swallowing
- anaphylactic shock
If you can’t breathe or swallow properly you may be experiencing anaphylactic shock, which can happen with a severe allergic reaction. This is a medical emergency. Seek help immediately.
Signs of anaphylactic shock can include the above symptoms, as well as:
- hives, flushed skin, or paleness
- hot flashes
- abdominal pain
- weak and rapid pulse
- runny nose and sneezing
- swollen tongue or lips
- tingling hands, feet, mouth, or scalp
These more severe symptoms should never be ignored, so if they accompany your palm rash it’s important to get medical treatment right away.
But if the cause seems to be a mild allergic reaction, then an antihistamine can reduce symptoms and even eliminate the rash.
Contact dermatitis is a form of eczema that can occur from touching an irritant or chemical.
You might think an allergic reaction would happen right away, but it can take repeated exposure and up to 96 hours after contact to develop.
Some common triggers of contact dermatitis:
- poison ivy
- poison oak
- nickel and other metals
- latex gloves
- cleaning supplies like disinfectants
- dust and soil
- highly chlorinated water
If the rash is accompanied by burning sensations, seek immediate medical attention.
Cold weather, or even just blasting the AC can dry out skin, and especially your exposed palms. Resist the urge to scratch dry, flaky skin. That will only make the rash worse.
Moisturizing is your best bet here. With dryness comes increased sensitivity, so look for gentle products that are recommended for eczema or sensitive skin. Not sure where to start? Try these.
A sometimes-inherited autoimmune disease, psoriasis can cause inflammation on various parts of your body, including the palms of your hands.
Psoriasis can also be triggered by other skin conditions, injury to the skin, or infection.
Additional symptoms may include:
- dry, scaly skin
- plaques, or thickened skin in affected areas
- painful cracks in your skin
There’s several types of psoriasis and the severity is ranked as mild, moderate, or severe.
Mild psoriasis can be treated with moisturizers, creams, and shampoos. For more severe psoriasis, a doctor will prescribe other topical creams, treatments such as light therapy, or medications.
Itchy palms and feet are a common symptom of diabetes. The itchiness may or may not include red or flesh-colored bumps on the palms or feet.
Diabetes can cause itchy skin in a few ways:
- diabetic neuropathy (type of nerve damage)
- kidney failure (possible complication of diabetes)
- allergic reaction to medication
If you have diabetes and itchy palms, it’s important to see your doctor. Those with diabetes are also more prone to infections and have a decreased ability to fight them off.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
For obvious reasons, kids are common carriers of this highly contagious viral infection. It can cause sores and rashes on (or in) the mouth, hands, and feet.
Other symptoms include:
- sore throat
- tongue blisters
- red rash on your palm or soles
- appetite loss
The symptoms will be mild and should heal within a few days, so if it gets worse or doesn’t improve in 3–4 days it’s time to call the doctor.
Eczema and dyphidrotic eczema
The National Eczema Association estimates that 10 percent of people in the U.S. suffer from hand eczema. While it’s common, it’s not contagious.
Symptoms include itching palms, red skin, cracking, dryness, and sometimes, painful blistering.
- caterers or restaurant staff
- cleaning professionals
- hair stylists
- healthcare professionals
In these positions your hands are washed often and exposed to chemicals. The best treatment option is to prevent the irritation from occurring in the first place, so make use of protective gloves.
If synthetic gloves cause irritation, you can wear an additional pair of cotton gloves beneath. Wash your hands with lukewarm water, avoid gel-based hand sanitizers, and use fragrance-free soaps.
Dyshidrotic eczema is a specific type of eczema that causes small and itchy blisters which will typically cluster together. They may be painful, too.
Within three weeks the blisters should dry up and peel. Though men can certainly get it, it’s more common among women. Sadly, there’s no cure for the condition yet.
Impetigo is a contagious condition that, again, is common with children (surprise, surprise). Blisters develop on the face, neck, and hands of those who have it.
It’s spread through skin-to-skin contact or by touching items that an infected person has touched. It’s super itchy and can spread to other areas through scratching. So resist the urge!
Children are more likely to develop impetigo if they already have other skin issues like eczema or contact dermatitis from poison ivy. If you suspect impetigo, see a doctor as antibiotics are likely needed to knock it out.
Ringworm is a skin infection that can show up anywhere on the body, usually in a ring-shaped pattern. It’s sometimes known as athlete’s foot, or “jock itch” if it occurs in those sensitive spots.
On your palms it won’t develop the tell-tale ring pattern, which makes it a little harder to identify.
If it’s ringworm, in addition to the palm rash you may have:
- dry skin
- deep cracks
- thickened skin
There’s over-the-counter (OTC) medications that you can purchase, but your doctor can also prescribe topical medications that can help clear it up in two to four weeks if it’s moderate to severe.
You now have a great excuse to opt out of anything requiring the use of your hands. Sorry, can’t help you move this weekend! It might be contagious…
Thankfully, some rashes heal on their own without treatment. Just be gentle with them while you wait. The cause of your rash largely determines the course of treatment.
For immediate relief of blistering and itching, try applying a cool, damp cloth or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a paper towel to your palms.
There are also many items lurking in your cabinets that might help.
Olive oil is packed with vitamin E and antioxidants. Mix it with a little honey and a dash of turmeric powder for its anti-inflammatory properties and apply this poultice to your palms while you watch reruns of Friends.
Other natural, soothing oils include castor, coconut, and cod liver oil.
You might also try soaking your hands in a colloidal oatmeal bath. Or make your own hand-soak by grinding a cup of oatmeal in your Ninja bullet or coffee grinder.
There are other causes for palm rashes like cirrhosis, an autoimmune disorder or some nerve disorders, but these are rarer than the causes listed here.
It’s more likely that after reading this you have a good sense of what might be causing your palm rash. If you’re still concerned, or if the rash is recurring or persistent, it’s best to get it checked out by your doctor.
High five! Oh right… not yet.