Peeling Skin on Hands and Feet in Children: Causes

What causes peeling skin on hands and feet in children?

Peeling skin on the hands and feet of a child can be a sign of allergies, inflammation, infection, or skin damage. More serious causes include severe allergic reactions, drug reactions, and infections.

Allergic causes of peeling skin on hands and feet in children

Drug, animal, food, and other environmental allergens can lead to peeling skin on hands and feet including:

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Contact dermatitis (contact with allergens, such as perfumes, poison ivy, and soaps)
  • Drug reactions

Autoimmune or inflammatory causes of peeling skin on hands and feet in children

Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of peeling skin on hands and feet in children include:

  • Kawasaki disease (inflammatory disease primarily affecting young children and infants)
  • Psoriasis

Infectious causes of peeling skin on hands and feet in children

Peeling skin on hands and feet in children may be caused by infectious diseases, such as:

  • Candida yeast
  • Measles
  • Meningococcemia
  • Mononucleosis
  • Scarlet fever
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (blistering and shedding of skin due to a serious staphylococcal infection) 
  • Tinea infections (athlete’s foot)
  • Viral infections

Other causes of peeling skin on hands and feet in children

Various other causes of peeling skin on hands and feet in children include:

  • Harsh soaps and detergents that can cause drying of the skin
  • Insect bites
  • Peeling skin syndrome and other rare genetic disorders or conditions
  • Side effects of some drugs and vitamins
  • Skin irritation or damage
  • Some types of cancer treatments
  • Sunburn
  • Vitamin deficiencies or toxicities

Serious or life-threatening causes of peeling skin on hands and feet in children

In some cases, peeling skin on hands and feet in children may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition, such as:

  • Acute leukemia
  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (type of blood cancer that affects the skin but is rare in children)
  • Meningococcemia (bacterial meningitis)
  • Skin cancer, which is possible but rare in children
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome (erythema multiforme major, a skin disorder caused by serious infection or allergic reaction)
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (severe reaction likely caused by a drug reaction)
  • Toxic shock syndrome

Questions for diagnosing the cause of peeling skin on hands and feet in children

To diagnose the underlying cause of peeling skin on hands and feet in a child, your doctor or licensed healthcare provider will ask you several questions related to your child’s symptoms. You can best help your healthcare provider in diagnosing the underlying cause of your child’s peeling skin by providing complete answers to these questions:

  • Is your child’s skin peeling anywhere else
  • Did your child have any type of illness before the peeling started?
  • Does the peeling involve mucous membranes in his or her eyes, nose, mouth, genitals or anus?
  • Has your child’s skin been exposed to sun or heat for long periods of time? Has he or she recently been sunburned?
  • Has your child been in recent contact with any unusual or new substances or environments, such as poison ivy, new medications, or food?
  • How long has your child’s skin been peeling?
  • How severe is the peeling? Are small or large pieces of skin peeling off?
  • Provide your child’s full medical history, including all medical conditions, surgeries, and treatments; family history; and a complete list of the medications and dietary supplements that he or she takes.
  • What other symptoms is your child having?

What are the potential complications of peeling skin on hands and feet in children?

Complications of peeling skin on hands and feet in children depend on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Identifying and treating the underlying cause of peeling skin on hands and feet in children is important to minimize any potential complications. In some cases, peeling skin itself can also lead to complications, especially if it leads to a breakdown of the skin and infection. Complications include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin
  • Cellulitis (an infection of the skin and surrounding tissues caused by a growing bacterial or fungal infection)
  • Open sores and lesions
  • Permanent change in skin texture or scarring
  • Permanent skin discoloration
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection

References:

  1. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org/content/nationalcontent/resourcecenter/freeeducationmaterials/lymphoma/pdf/cutane....
  2. Erythema multiforme. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000851.htm
  3. Garg K, Singh D, Mishra D. Peeling skin syndrome: current status. Dermatol Online J. 2010;16(3):10.
  4. General information about skin cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/skin/patient/
  5. What is Kawasaki disease? Kawasaki Disease Foundation. http://www.kdfoundation.org/.
  6. Psoriasis.  National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Psoriasis/psoriasis_ff.asp.
  7. Scarlet fever. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Scarlet-Fever.aspx.
  8. Tinea infections. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tineainfections.html#cat5.
  9. Toxic shock syndrome. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000653.htm.
  10. Vitamin A. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/964.html#Safety.
  11. Zeiger Roni F, McGraw-Hill's Diagnosaurus 2.0: http://www.accessmedicine.com/diag.aspx
  12. Kahan S, Miller R, Smith EG (Eds.). In A Page Signs & Symptoms, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2009.
  13. Feigin RD, Cherry JD, Demmler-Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL (Eds), Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 6th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2009.
INTRODUCTION

What is peeling skin on hands and feet in children?

Peeling skin (desquamation) is the loss or shedding of the outer layer of your skin (epidermis). Peeling skin on the hands and feet in children can be caused by direct damage to the skin or by a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Allergic and infectious causes are common in children. However, peeling skin on the hands and feet in children may be a sign of some r... Read more about peeling skin on hands and feet in childrenintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with peeling skin on hands and feet in children?

Peeling skin on the hands and feet in children may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms may affect the digestive tract, respiratory system, nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, immune system, or integumentary system (skin and associated tissues).

Skin symptoms that may occ... Read more about peeling skin on hands and feet in childrensymptoms

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails


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