Why is our skin more vulnerable now?
Our skin is more dry than usual because all of us are now washing our hands more frequently and for longer both at home and at work to help protect ourselves from infection with Covid-19. In addition we are also using alcohol-based skin sanitisers to prevent infection. Our workers in health care and especially workers who care directly for patients suffering from Covid-19 also have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) daily for long periods of time. Finally people in many different situations and occupations are now having to wear protective gloves.
What is the problem with PPE?
Masks visors and glasses used as PPE may cause friction and irritation if used for long periods of time. In hot working environments sweat can build up inside gloves and masks and it too may irritate the skin.
Are there some people who are more vulnerable than others?
Yes the skin of people who have atopy (heightened immune response) or a history of atopy ie asthma, hay fever or eczema, is more vulnerable and they are at greater risk.
Which parts of the skin are usually affected?
The skin of the hands and the face especially the cheeks and bridge of the nose.
What happens to the skin?
The skin can become dry and has a scaly and red appearance. In more severe cases the skin can become swollen. It can feel itchy and sore.
How can this be prevented?
For washing use a fragrance free soap. Ideally remove any rings. Dry the hands thoroughly using a paper towel and dispose of the towel safely. Apply fragrance free moisturising creams after each hand washing and before bedtime. These will help build up the skin barrier. A similar approach will also help prevent facial irritation.
What can workplaces do?
People at risk through their work should be informed of that risk and the measures in place to prevent irritation. Systems for Covid-19 prevention should ensure adequate hand washing facilities and supplies of soap, disposable towels and moisturising creams. Workers should report changes in their skin condition. If the problem is severe the advice of an occupational health professional should be sought.
Caution: Moisturisers and Sanitisers Alcohol-based sanitisers, emollients, creams, lotions and ointments contain oils which can catch fire. When emollient products get in contact with clothing there is a danger that a naked flame could cause these to catch fire too. The products should also be stored safely avoiding high temperatures or naked flames.
Where can I find more information?
Please click on the link below for further advice and guidance: