Hand rashes can result from allergic reactions, exposure to irritants, and sunburn. Health conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema, can also cause hand rashes. Treatment will depend on the cause.

In this article, we look at the possible causes of a rash on a person’s hands and when to seek medical help.

Below are images of different rashes on the hands from a variety of causes.

Contact dermatitis is a condition that causes changes in skin color, itching, and irritation. Irritant contact dermatitis results from direct exposure to substances and accounts for around 80% of dermatitis cases.

These substances directly affect the skin and may cause rashes on the hands if this is the site of exposure.

Common skin irritants include:

  • hand soaps
  • rubber or latex gloves
  • nickel and gold jewelry
  • citrus and other natural acids

Contact dermatitis usually goes away once people remove the irritant.

Discover some triggers of contact dermatitis in this article.

Several substances can cause minor allergic reactions on the skin. These substances may affect the hands when a person is gardening, using a new lotion, or being exposed to a chemical to which they have an allergy.

In allergic contact dermatitis, the immune system overreacts following contact with these substances, causing a rash, swelling, and irritation. This differs from irritant contact dermatitis, where the substances themselves cause symptoms.

It is possible to treat many minor allergic reactions at home. Learn how here.

Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life threatening allergic reaction that causes the body’s immune system to react aggressively to a substance. It sometimes begins with a slightly swollen rash similar to hives.

If the rash spreads quickly, it can lead to more severe symptoms, such as a swollen throat and trouble breathing.

A person who suddenly develops a rash following a sting, new medication, or exposure to another new substance should immediately contact a healthcare professional.

Hives often appear as raised, dumpy rashes. The bumps are itchy and may appear lighter when someone presses on them. The condition can result from irritant and allergen exposure, underlying health conditions, and other physical triggers.

Hives can be acute or chronic, and nearly 20% of people will experience the condition at some time in their lives. The medical term for hives is urticaria.

Eczema, sometimes called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition. It causes scaly patches on the skin that may be darker or lighter than the rest of the skin. The patches may be all over the body or just in one place, such as the hands.

The rash often itches and may worsen when the skin is dry or during cold or dry weather. Eczema is more common in children than in adults. After childhood, eczema typically goes away by itself, but many individuals can have the condition in adulthood.

There is a variety of eczema types. Learn more here.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes an overgrowth of skin cells. This can cause rashes, inflammation, and raised, scaly patches of skin known as plaques. The condition can occur in any part of the body.

Psoriasis tends to appear pink or red on those with light or fair skin tones, with scales appearing silvery-white. On medium skin tones, it can appear salmon-colored and feature silvery-white scales. On darker skin tones, psoriasis could look violet with gray scales or appear dark brown and difficult to see.

Psoriasis on the hands may also affect the nails. People with the condition on their hands may develop the rash elsewhere, such as on the scalp.

There is no cure for psoriasis, but some medications can help manage the condition.

Exposure to sunlight can cause sunburn on any part of the body. Clothing rarely covers the hands, so it is important that people remember to apply sun cream to the back of their hands, fingers, and wrists when applying to the rest of the body.

Sunburn may hurt at first and then begin itching. The skin may look dry, blister, or peel. Sunburn can affect all people, although those with lighter skin have a higher risk of burning.

Find out how sunburn affects dark skin here.

Several genetic conditions can cause the skin on their hands to peel continuously. This peeling will often be painless, but it may result in swelling, skin discoloration, and localized discomfort.

Peeling skin syndromes may worsen during the summer or after frequent handwashing or exposure to water.

Tinea manuum is a type of fungal infection of the hands, similar to athlete’s foot. It usually causes a rash with a raised border.

A person may contract the infection from a person, animal, or soil with tinea manuum or from touching the feet of someone with athlete’s foot. The rash is usually very itchy and can cause the nails to discolor or look misshapen.

Lichen planus is a common inflammatory skin condition. It causes swelling, discoloration of the skin, and bumps. It can affect any part of the body, including the mouth and scalp, but some people first notice the rash on their wrists or hands.

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin’s deeper layers. If bacteria enter the skin, it can cause cellulitis.

A range of diseases or injuries can allow bacteria to penetrate the skin. A person can get cellulitis even after minor injuries, such as a cut from a razor or a bee sting.

Cellulitis may resemble a rash because it looks swollen and discolored, but it is a dangerous infection that can spread quickly.

Treatment depends on the cause of the rash. It is usually safe to treat minor conditions, such as contact dermatitis and eczema, at home. The most common treatments include:

It is not possible to prevent all rashes. However, below are some strategies that may help:

  • Use fragrance-free moisturizers to reduce the risk of irritation and allergic reactions.
  • If a person has eczema, use a formulated cream, especially after washing hands.
  • Wear gloves when working in the yard or using irritating chemicals.
  • Avoid using medications, including medicated creams, unless necessary. This can reduce the risk of a medication-induced allergic reaction.

People should consult a doctor regarding any rash that does not go away on its own with home treatment. They should also seek medical attention if a rash starts spreading.

A person should call a healthcare professional immediately if:

  • they have a fever and rash, or the rash shows signs of infection such as pus or oozing
  • the rash is painful but not itchy
  • the skin is very swollen
  • they have other symptoms, such as symptoms of a cold or the flu
  • a rash appears all over the body, especially after an insect sting or taking medication
  • a person has a rash and has trouble breathing

Below are some commonly asked questions about a rash on the hands.

What STD causes a rash on the hands?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause a rash anywhere on the body. However, it often appears on the palms and soles of the feet. It may cause spots, blisters, or many other signs.

What viruses cause a rash on the hands?

Research shows that the COVID-19 virus may cause a rash in as many as 20.4% of people who are infected. This rash is most likely to appear on the hands and feet.

Shingles can also present as a rash on the hand.

Various substances, conditions, and infections can cause rashes on the hands.

Most rashes are not serious and will go away independently, even without treatment. If a rash hurts, appears suddenly, or does not go away, it may indicate a more serious problem.

Prompt medical treatment may ease the pain and treat the rash.