COMMON SKIN DISEASES ASSOCIATED WITH HOUSEWORK
Common skin disorders that may arise from housework are:
Irritant contact dermatitis
This is the commonest skin disorder that can arise from
housework. It commonly affects the hands. The condition usually
begins with mild dryness, redness, peeling and scaliness on the
hands. Later cracks and crusts develop.
Causes of irritant contact dermatitis due to housework commonly
include detergents, cleansing agents, foodstuff, disinfectants,
water and bleaches.
Individuals with sensitive skin and pre-existing skin diseases
e.g. atopic eczema are more prone to develop irritant contact
dermatitis. Affected individuals should be encouraged to wear
cotton gloves inside loose-fitting rubber gloves if wet work
cannot be avoided. It is not advisable to wear rubber gloves for
more than 30 minutes at a stretch, as perspiration may cause
discomfort and maceration. If the patient is allergic to rubber
gloves, vinyl gloves may be used as an alternative. Treatment
includes use of topical steroid creams, moisturizers and oral
Allergic contact dermatitis
This occurs less frequently than irritant contact dermatitis.
It is often difficult to differentiate between an allergic from an
irritant contact dermatitis by the appearance of the rash alone.
Substances known to cause skin allergy include rubber
gloves, food stuff (onions, garlic, fruits), spices, flavouring
agents, certain hand creams, fragrances, nickel, chromate (in
bleaches), flowers, polishes and disinfectants. Skin allergies can
be confirmed by a skin patch test. Once the patient is found to be
allergic to a particular substance, he/she should make special
efforts to avoid direct skin contact with the substance, in order
to avoid worsening or relapse of the dermatitis.
This is an immediate but transient wheal response (localised
swelling with redness) at the site of direct contact with the
substance causing an allergic reaction. It usually
resolves within a few hours, leaving normal skin. Contact
urticaria can be confirmed by doing a skin prick test. Causes of
contact urticaria include foodstuff, fragrances, flavouring
agents, animal and plant products, preservatives, disinfectants
and rubber latex. Avoidance of the causative agent is important to
avoid recurrance of the rash.
A. Candida intertrigo
refers to itchy red rash with white flakes, that is commonly
seen at the fingerwebs. It is caused by yeast -infection.
Moisture promotes candida infection.
B. Fungal nail infections
may affect the fingers and toenails. The infection originates
from the free margin and sides of the nails and eventually
involves the nail plate, causing it to become brittle, thickened
or completely destroyed. Skin fungal infections can be
treated with antifungal creams and/ or tablets. Fungal nail
infections may require prolonged treatment for up to one year. The
affected nails may take up to a few months after the treatment has
been stopped, to return to near normal appearance.
This refers to inflammation with/without infection of the nail
folds. It is commonly caused by constant wet work.
Secondary infection by bacteria or fungus will cause painful
swelling of the nail fold. The nail plate may become deformed with
chronic infection of the nail fold. Patients with paronychia
should avoid prolonged wet work or wear impervious gloves during
Viral warts commonly infect the hands, fingers, nail folds and nail
beds. It may be further exacerbated by the mild repetitive trauma
experienced during housework. Warts on the fingers and hands can be
destroyed with liquid nitrogen or laser surgery. Wart infection around
the nails, however, is very difficult to eradicate. The best
treatment so far is laser surgery.