For many people especially housewives and manual workers, the hands are the most overworked and ill-used part of the body. They are exposed to all kinds of wear and tear: to the effects of temperature and climate: to frequent wetting: to the onslaughts of harsh chemicals: and to the risk of minor injury and subsequent infection. Yet the care of the hands is often completely overlooked until, say, the skin becomes rough and cracked or a nail is broken.
The repeated use of soap and water damages the top layer of the skin, and can cause excessive scaling, or chapping. When washing hands lukewarm water and the simplest soap should be used. Exposing unprotected hands to bleaches and other kitchen chemicals, and also to shampoos, can aggravate chapping.To protect hands, wear plastic gloves. Cold weather can also cause chapping of the hands. The skin becomes sore and red and may begin to crack. One has to use cold cream at this time.
In some extreme instances, chapping can lead to eczema, or inflamation of the skin. Eczema can also affect people who are allergic to certain materials. As the hands are almost always in contact with some material, the condition can persist. One has to see the doctor in this condition.
Children in particular are affected by warts, which develop on the hands or fingers and are contagious. Most warts disappear spontaneously, as immunity develops, though they persist for a year or more. There is no way of preventing them. If they cause concern they should be seen by a doctor, who can destroy them with corrosive or freezing fluids.
Nails and their problems
The main function of the finger nails is to protect the sensitive tips of the fingers and concentrate the sense of touch. On average, a nail grows from its base to its top edge in about six months. If nails are not cut they will become split and broken.
The top layers of nails can separate and start to flake off if they are exposed to too much soap and water or detergent. If flaking occurs, wear plastic gloves when washing dishes or clothes, and massage nail cream into the nail base each day.
When nails easily crack or break they can be a permanent worry. Weak nails are caused by general ill health or a protein defeciency in the diet. You can increase your nutritional intake by eating more lean meat, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables.
Brittle nails could also be suffering from extereme dryness and, if this is the case, rub in a nail cream every morning and night and keep the nails fairly short until the condition improves.
The excessive use of nail hardeners containing formaldehyde can cause the nail plate to separate from the nail bed. The space beneath the nail may then become infected, causing discoloration. Loose nails can also accompany diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
If the nails are frequently immersed in water the outer skin layer may split away from the cuticle. The splits, or hang nails, are painful and can become infected. They can be snipped off with sharp nail scissors. To prevent them from occurring, the skin should be kept flexible by nightly applications of cold creams
A heavy blow on the nail—or jamming it in a door—can cause bleeding under the nail which eventually fall off. New growth will cure the condition. If the injury is very painful the nail may have to be removed surgically.