Handwashing = Hand Eczema

Is the Coronavirus hand washing routine causing you sore, painful hands?

I bet now the phrase ‘wash your hands’ has a different meaning to us all.   In the past few weeks since the new coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic has intensified, all over the world we are washing our hands with soap and hot water whilst singing our own versions of ‘Happy Birthday’ or in my case ‘I Will Survive’ – Ha Ha!  The good news is that this over-washing our hands is helping to prevent the spread of this virus.  However, the bad news is that a lot of us will now have increased itchy, red, irritated hands which can unfortunately result in eczema and dermatitis rashes.

The constant use of oil-stripping soap and hot water and in addition, the alcohol-based sanitizers means that the skin is being dried up to the extent that it’s becoming raw and inflamed.   Now this is where the danger lurks…of developing a skin infection. 

Even in the best of times, I always get emails about a rise in hand irritation during the colder months.   Most winters, we are washing our hands often to prevent infections such as the cold and flu, but this year with coronavirus, there is a combination of more frequent handwashing and we are constantly using these alcohol-based hand sanitizers. 

What is happening to the outside layer of skin?

On the outside of your skin you have the protective lipid barrier whose job it is to keep the moisture in and bacteria and irritants out.  The excessive washing strips the skin of healthy fats and oils known as sebum and that dehydrates the skin.   This drying up of the skin leaves our hands red, itchy, flaking and even painful cracks that can leave us susceptible to infections.

Of course, dry skin is a small price to pay for a crucial health and safety measure.

What can you do to prevent dryness and eczema?

1.  As well as practising constant washing, you have to practise constant moisturising.   If you can, stick to a hand cream that will form a protective, but breathable seal over the skin. 

2.  Try using soap at home that is ph balanced such as Dove soap.  

3.  Treat yourself to a pair of moisturising gel gloves!