Palm rashes can occur due to common skin conditions, such as eczema, or due to irritants and allergens. Most cases are not severe, and depending on the cause, the rash may improve on its own.
This article explores common causes for a rash on the palms, along with their symptoms and treatments.
A rash on the palms of the hands will look and feel differently depending on what causes it.
Most rashes look inflamed and may cause pain or itchiness. In paler skin, they may be red, while in darker skin, they may be grey, violet, or dark brown. Some rashes can also cause blistering, peeling, or flaking.
A palm rash might cause discomfort when closing the hand into a ball, or cause irritation when a person touches certain substances. Frequently washing the hands may dry the skin further.
Some possible triggers of palm rashes include:
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common condition that causes dry, sensitive skin. It typically affects young children but may continue into adulthood.
- dry skin that may crack
- red patches in lighter skin, and grey or purple areas in darker skin
Some forms of the condition are more common on the palms, such as dyshidrotic eczema. This type of eczema can cause small blisters on the hands, fingers, and palms.
Eczema treatments vary depending on the severity of the condition. There are many over-the-counter (OTC) moisturizers for mild to moderate cases. More severe cases may require corticosteroids or antihistamines.
Learn more about the causes and treatments for atopic dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis is a skin condition that develops when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen. Many different substances can trigger contact dermatitis, including:
- poison ivy
When the skin comes into contact with something the body perceives as dangerous, this can cause a rash. This rash may:
The skin may also become dry, and in severe cases, crack. Because the hands touch many different substances each day, they are a common place where contact dermatitis can develop.
The main treatment is to identify and avoid the triggers for this condition. A doctor can perform a patch test on someone to determine what substance is causing the reaction. Some people may also benefit from moisturizers or corticosteroids.
Hives are raised red or skin-colored welts on the skin. They itch and can appear anywhere on the body, including the palms of the hands.
An allergic reaction to certain substances triggers this condition. These substances include foods, medications, or pollen. However, they can also occur in response to an infection or physical stimuli, such as heat or sun exposure.
Most cases of hives are acute and go away when there is no more exposure to the trigger causing the reaction. Antihistamines can also help reduce swelling and allergy symptoms.
However, some people have chronic hives. An allergy specialist can help someone manage this and, if possible, identify the cause.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
A virus causes hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). It most commonly affects children
The symptoms of HFMD include:
- sore throat
- a rash on the hands and feet, consisting of painful blisters
- ulcers in the mouth
- loss of appetite
People sometimes confuse HFMD with foot and mouth disease. However, these are separate conditions. Foot and mouth disease can only affect livestock and does not affect humans.
Usually, HFMD is not serious and resolves without treatment in 7–10 days. In the meantime, OTC pain medication can help relieve symptoms.
However, HFMD is contagious and spreads easily. People can help prevent spreading the virus by practicing hand hygiene and avoiding close contact with others.
Tinea manuum is a type of fungal infection that affects the hands. Ringworm triggers this condition, the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot. This condition is contagious, so touching other areas of the body affected with ringworm could lead to an infection on the palms.
- a small rash on the hands that gradually gets bigger
- skin that peels, flakes, or is scaly
A person can treat ringworm with OTC topical creams. A pharmacist can recommend an antifungal product for use on the hands. If the infection persists or is severe, a doctor may prescribe oral medication.
If a person has tinea manuum, they should avoid touching other areas of the body, or other people, as this can spread the infection. If people need to apply topical treatments to other parts of the body, they should wear disposable gloves.
Palmoplantar psoriasis is an inflammatory condition that causes red, scaly patches to appear on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the skin grows new cells too quickly.
Symptoms of psoriasis include:
- red, scaly patches of skin
- cracked skin that may bleed
Psoriasis can also affect the fingernails and toenails and may include pustules.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but there are treatments that can help someone manage it, including:
- steroid creams
- UV light therapy
- medications to suppress the immune system, such as ciclosporin
To diagnose rashes on the palms, a doctor will look at the rash to assess its appearance. They may ask if the person has had any other symptoms, such as a fever or pain. They may also take a medical history or ask questions about skin conditions that run in someone’s family.
If a person could have contact dermatitis or hives, a doctor may recommend a skin prick test to determine the triggers.
There are ways to care for a palm rash at home. However, the techniques depend on the underlying cause.
For example, for fungal infections, a person may need to avoid touching the rash or sharing personal items with other people. OTC antifungal creams will help treat the disease.
For allergic reactions, people may need to make changes to their home environment, diet, or lifestyle to avoid triggers.
For dry skin, eczema, and contact dermatitis, there are several home remedies, including:
- taking warm showers or baths, ensuring they are not hot
- using gentle, nonirritating cleansers
- regularly applying a barrier cream, such as E45 or Eucerin
- moisturizing after bathing, showering, or washing the hands
- wearing cotton gloves at night to prevent scratching
A person may wish to see a doctor so they can identify the cause of a palm rash. A medical professional can help identify the trigger and recommend treatments.
People should also see a doctor if they have ringworm that does not respond to OTC treatments, or their rash shows signs of a bacterial infection. The symptoms of a bacterial infection on the skin include:
- feeling warm to the touch
People with hives or allergies should contact an emergency department or dial 911 immediately if they have trouble breathing.
Several conditions can trigger a palm rash. Most are not serious and may resolve on their own, or improve with OTC treatments and home care.
If a person has persistent or severe symptoms, or other symptoms accompanying the rash, they should speak to a doctor.