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Dry Hands on a Toddler

Dry Hands on a Toddler

Overview

Dry skin, also known as xerosis, is usually temporary and not serious for toddlers. Your toddler's hands are often exposed to environmental influences that cause this area to be drier than others, because the hands are often exposed outside of clothing. In most cases, dry skin can be relieved from home, but in severe cases your toddler may need a prescription-strength medication.

Cause

Environmental factors and lifestyles play a significant role in the dryness of your toddler's hands. According to the University of Iowa, dry skin is most common in the winter when humidity is at its lowest. The lack of moisture in the air causes the skin to become dry. However, this can also happen in exceptionally hot environments, such as deserts.

Having your toddler wash his hands regularly is a great habit to enforce. It prevents the spread of influenza, colds and other infections. However, hand-washing can also play a significant role in dry skin. If your toddler prefers long and frequent baths, this is also a contributor to dry skin of the hands and other areas of the body.

Identification

The skin on the hands will often flake and peel. Your toddler's hands will also look and feel rough. If your toddler spreads his fingers or grabs a rough fabric, the skin may crack and possibly even bleed. In some cases, the hands may appear reddened where dry skin is present.

Treatment

Apply moisturizer after baths and after washing your hands. According to the University of Iowa, moisturizers should be applied within three minutes to seal water into the skin before it evaporates. For moisturizers, a thick ointment works best; however, a cream and lotion can help as well. Avoid using over-the-counter anti-itch creams and anti-inflammatory creams, which can irritate the skin. According to the American Academy of Family Practitioners, using petroleum jelly on dry hands can offer relief.

Prevention

To prevent dry skin, keep baths limited to 15 minutes. Water makes dry skin worse by removing protective skin oils. As with treating dry skin, always apply a moisturizer within three minutes to keep water sealed into the skin--even when your toddler's skin is not dry. Applying moisturizers to your toddler's hands each time he washes his hands can also assist in preventing dry skin. If you have central air or heating, use a humidifier to keep moisture in the air. While outside, always protect your toddler's hands with an SPF of at least 30 during the summer and always wear gloves to protect his hands from extreme winter weather.

Considerations

If your toddler's dry hands haven't improved, are getting worse, have open sores or have large areas of skin peeling, contact his pediatrician for professional treatment. Having dry skin increases your toddler's risk of bacterial infections such as cellulitis, which when left untreated is potentially fatal.

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