In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic. As the virus continues to spread globally, health officials have emphasized that washing and sanitizing one’s hands regularly and properly is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Using alcohol based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol is effective in killing most germs on your hands. Washing and sanitizing regularly are effective methods to ward off illness as proven by Ignaz Semmelweis, the “Father of infection control”. However, they can cause and exacerbate skin issues like eczema.
Frequent washing and sanitizing is the cause of dry skin
There are two types of skin reactions associated with hand hygiene. The first type is known as irritant contact dermatitis where symptoms can vary from mild to serious such as dryness, irritation, itching, cracking and bleeding. The second type is known as allergic contact dermatitis where some ingredient in the hand hygiene product contains ingredients that cause allergic reactions.
Frequent and repeated use of hand hygiene products such as soaps and detergents is one of the major causes of irritant contact dermatitis particularly among health workers. The hand hygiene products damage the skin, depleting the lipid barrier as it contacts lipid-emulsifying detergents and lipid-dissolving alcohols. As a result, deeper action of detergents into the superficial skin layers occurs.
Damage to the skin changes the skin flora as well, resulting in colonization of staphylococci which causes staph infection. Although alcohol based sanitizers are safer than detergents, they can cause irritation and dryness as well.
How to keep your hands moisturized
To combat the effects of frequent usage of hand hygiene products, we should use hand lotion and creams containing humectants and oils that increase skin hydration by replacing depleted skin lipids.
Once your hands are dry after washing, use a skin moisturizer immediately! It is crucial to replenish the depleted lipids so that dirt and irritants do not come in contact with superficial skin layers directly. Products with ingredients such as aloe vera and shea butter are excellent for skin hydration.
While we’re living in these trying times, self hygiene is more important than ever to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We should not ignore the side effects of the hand hygiene products as they can cause annoying skin problems. If we are going to die from this pandemic, at least your corpse is not riddled with eczema.