Common Skin Conditions Linked to Housework

Contact dermatitis and other skin problems or skin conditions are typically caused by frequent exposure to the chemical agents in cleaning products.

Many cleaning products and agents that keep our homes spick and span can be rough on our skin. Here are some common skin disorders that may arise from constant exposure to cleaning products and cooking items used in housework.

Skin Conditions Caused By Cleaning Products

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

The most common skin disorder that can arise from housework, which typically affects the hands. The condition usually begins with mild dryness, redness, peeling and scaliness of the hands. In later stages, the skin on your hands may crack and develop crusts. 

Some causes of irritant contact dermatitis due to housework include exposure to detergents, cleaning agents, food items, disinfectants, water and bleach.

Individuals with sensitive skin and pre-existing skin diseases such as atopic eczema are prone to developing irritant contact dermatitis. If you are sensitive to these products, wear cotton gloves inside loose-fitting rubber gloves — especially if wet work cannot be avoided at home. It is not advisable to wear rubber gloves for more than 30 minutes as perspiration may cause discomfort and maceration. If you are allergic to rubber gloves, vinyl gloves may be used as an alternative.

Treatment for this common skin disorder includes the use of topical steroid creams, moisturisers and oral antihistamines.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis 

Allergic contact dermatitis is a less common skin disorder than irritant contact dermatitis but has similar rash symptoms. As such, it is often difficult to differentiate between irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis by the appearance of the rash alone.

Substances known to trigger this skin disorder include rubber gloves, food items such as onions, garlic, fruits, spices and flavouring agents, certain hand creams, fragrances, nickel, chromate in bleach, flowers, polishes and disinfectants. 

This allergy can be confirmed by conducting a skin patch test. Once you have confirmed your allergy to a particular substance, make a special effort to avoid direct skin contact with the specific substance to prevent a relapse of the skin problem.

Contact Urticaria

This skin disorder is characterised by an immediate swelling with redness on the affected area of the skin. Contact urticaria can be confirmed by conducting a skin prick test. 

Some causes of contact urticaria include exposure to certain foods, fragrances, flavouring agents, animal and plant products, preservatives, disinfectants and rubber latex. The condition usually resolves within a few hours, but avoidance of the causative agent is important to avoid recurrence of the rash. 

Fungal Infections

There are two types of fungal infections associated with housework listed below.

Candida Intertrigo 

This fungal infection is an itchy, red rash with white flakes commonly seen at the finger webs. It is caused by a yeast infection. Exposure to moisture could exacerbate this fungal infection. 

Fungal Nail Infections 

Fungal nail infections may affect the fingers and toenails. The infection starts from the free margin and sides of the nails and eventually involves the nail plate, causing it to become brittle, thickened or destroyed. 

Skin fungal infections can be treated with antifungal creams and/or tablets. Fungal nail infections may require prolonged treatment for up to a year. The affected nails may take up to a few months after the treatment has been stopped to return to normal conditions.


This skin disorder refers to inflammation with or without the infection of the nail folds. It is commonly caused by constant exposure to wet work. Secondary infection by bacteria or fungus will also cause painful swelling of the nail fold. The nail plate may become deformed if it is chronically infected. 

If you have paronychia, avoid prolonged wet work or wear impervious gloves during wet work. 

Viral Warts

Viral warts commonly infect the hands, fingers, nail folds, and nail beds. It may be further exacerbated by 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 for this skin condition is laser surgery.

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