COVID-19: More Hand Scrubbing Linked to Greater Risk of Cracked Dry Hands

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Monisha Madhumita
Father Muller Medical College

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

hand-washing-eczema-dermatologyResponse: The COVID‐19 pandemic requires stringent adoption of hand hygiene practices. Health Care Workers (HCW) and the general population are at increased risk of irritation, dryness, redness and cracked hands (irritant dermatitis) due to frequent hand washing and the use of alcohol-based hand rubs. An effective hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol to kill germs. Thus, it can be very drying to the skin. Transepidermal water loss (TEWL) is a way to measure the water lost from the skin. It is an essential parameter for characterizing skin hydration and protective function. Both of which are disrupted in irritant hand dermatitis.

This research study was conducted on 582 participants: 291 health care workers and 291 healthy individuals of the general population. Measurements of TEWL were made using a noninvasive, closed- chamber system (VapoMeter) in a standardized environment. The study participants were asked to identify the challenges to compliance in hand hygiene practice

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response:  The results showed the prevalence of hand dermatitis among health care workers and the general population to be 92.6% and 68.7%, respectively. Only around 7% of the HCW and 3% of the general population used hand moisturizers. The main challenge to the consistent practice of hand hygiene among health care workers and the general population was skin irritation and dryness.

TEWL can help compare the efficacy of various barrier protective measures and suitable modification of hand hygiene practices and products in preventing hand eczema. Early identification of disrupted skin barrier function and appropriate skin protective measures can improve compliance in hand hygiene practice. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There are simple measures to reduce your risk of dry, cracked skin from frequent hand-washing, advocated by national and international dermatology associations. It includes using lukewarm water while washing hands with soap, moisturizing immediately after washing your hands with hand creams or ointments. Fragrance and dye-free moisturizers are preferred as they are less irritating to your skin. Using a moisturizer after hand wash does not negate your hand-washing efforts. It prevents open wounds that can arise from dry, cracked skin.

It is important to note that hand hygiene is crucial to stop the spread of coronavirus. However, consistent practice of hand hygiene requires a simultaneous practice of hand protective measures for the healthcare workers and the general public alike.

The hands that heal are hands that must be healed.

* If you have further questions about how to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer or moisturizer, ask your physician/dermatologist.


EADV EADV Spring Symposium 2021 abstract:
Overzealous Hand Hygiene and the Overlooked Skin Damage


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Last Updated on May 11, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD