Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cracking the code on dry-hand relief

January 14. 2014 11:19AM



• You itch all over your body, but there is no obvious cause or rash.

• Itching is so bad that you cannot sleep, and home treatment is not helping.

• Your skin is badly broken from scratching.

• There are signs of infection, including increased pain, swelling, redness, warmth, tenderness, red streaks extending from the area, discharge of pus, fever of 100 or higher with no other cause, swollen lymph nodes.



We asked our friends on The Times Leader Features Facebook page which products they swear by to relieve the pain and discomfort of dry winter hands. Here’s what they had to say:

Donna Hornick: coconut oil

Maryjane Shinko: coconut oil, Vaseline, aloe

Linda Tregembo Abner: Gold Bond Ultimate Healing

Mary Angela: Atractain, for diabetics, but anyone can use it. UPS-driver approved!

Mary Gerber: Eucerin!

• Carol Nay George: Bag Balm is the best.

• Jennifer Simonson: I am in water most of my day. I use “No Cracks.” There is a day and night treatment. These together have been a blessing for me!

• Elaine Briskie Novak: Vaseline.

• James Withers: Oh, L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream by FAR! Extremely pleasant scent to top it off.

Join the conversation. To offer your input on our stories and answer our regular reader polls, like Times Leader Features on Facebook.

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Welcome to winter, when the cold weather outside and the central heat indoors seem to be in a conspiracy to strip your skin of moisturizing oils.

Are you washing your hands a lot? That’s a good way to prevent the spread of cold and flu germs, but it also can make your skin even more dry.

So what is a person with sensitive skin to do?

“I use Curél,” said Doris Ferry, 68, who lives at North Penn Manor in Wilkes-Barre. “It helps.”

“I’m trying LUSH,” administrator Judy Lee said, naming another skin cream.

“When my hands itch, I try not to scratch,” said Marge Paraventi, 75, another resident.

Certainly, residents and staff at a personal-care facility might be especially challenged by dry winter skin because the aging process tends to have a drying effect, and the staff, while younger, would be frequently washing their hands.

But people from all walks of life can feel the pain, said Monica Mathis, a dermatology physician assistant from the Geisinger Health Care System who agreed to share some tips.

“Some people are more sensitive,” Mathis said in a telephone interview. “Heredity could play a role, people who work outdoors are more exposed to the elements, and people who have their hands in water a lot can be prone to problems.”

Mathis recommends a “soak-and-smear” strategy, during which a person soaks his or her hands in plain lukewarm — not hot, no soap — water for 10 minutes, then lightly pats the hands dry and slathers them with a moisturizing ointment or cream and covers them with white cotton gloves.

Is your favorite store sold out of cotton gloves this season?

“Use white cotton socks,” Mathis said.

“Ideally, you should apply moisturizer before you even notice your skin is dry,” the physician assistant said, suggesting starting in the fall instead of waiting for winter. And, it’s a good idea to stash containers of a moisturizer that works for you in different rooms or in your car or at work so you can re-apply it five or six times a day.

The greasier a product, the better, Mathis said, suggesting ointments and creams as better solutions than lotions. The lotions are more likely to include alcohol, which itself has a drying effect.

“We love Curél,” she said, suggesting Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, Gold Bond Ointment and Aquaphor Healing Ointment as other top choices.

Using lukewarm water rather than hot and using a mild soap such as Ivory or Dove should be helpful, she said. Adding a humidifier to your home also may ease your symptoms.

Also, she said, it is important to avoid scratching because that can open the skin and lead to infection. It also tends to increase the itching sensation.

If your hands are very chapped, you could try an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. But if it doesn’t improve your skin in a month, she said, you should consult a physician.


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