Healthcare workers experience spike in skin conditions

03 Sep 2020

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) has released statistics indicating that during COVID-19, 59% of healthcare workers seen in occupational skin disease clinics have been affected by irritant contact dermatitis, due to increased PPE use and frequent hand washing.

The research was presented at the Virtual Annual Meeting of the British Association of Dermatologists, based on an audit of 200 hospital-based healthcare workers by the British Society of Cutaneous Allergy.

According to the study, acne was the second most common condition, seen in 15% of healthcare workers due to the occlusive effects of prolonged mask wear.

The research also indicated that 18% of the healthcare workers had required time off work because of their occupational skin problems.

Dr Isha Narang, lead researcher of the study, said, “Wearing PPE for long periods can cause pressure and irritant effects on the skin and frequent handwashing with soap is drying; sometimes the effects can be bad enough to require time off work. As PPE and handwashing are essential methods of reducing the spread of COVID-19, it is important to provide healthcare workers with advice and support in managing their skin.”

Dr Harriet O’Neill, another lead researcher of the study, said, “For the face, protecting the skin with medical-grade silicon tape before donning tight-fitting masks, then rechecking the fit of the mask, may be helpful. Facial skin should be regularly moisturised when not at work. Where possible, regular breaks should be taken during shifts in which the PPE, such as masks, goggles and gloves, is removed to reduce the amount of contact time with the skin. We would also recommend that people dry their hands fully after washing by patting them dry, not rubbing them. Moisturisers are an essential part of treating dermatitis and should be applied generously after handwashing and whenever the skin feels dry. In severe cases, or if an infection is suspected, further treatment from a GP or an Occupational Health doctor may be required.”

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