Preventing Skin Reactions to PPE, Hand Washing

Female doctor teaching How to wearing Surgical mask for protect Covid-19
The European Task Force on Contact Dermatitis has set forth steps to prevent and treat cutaneous reactions from COVID-19 personal precautions.

The European Task Force on Contact Dermatitis has published a statement on coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) and the risk for cutaneous reactions to protective equipment and other infection-prevention measures. The full statement was published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.

According to the Task Force, which consists of dermatitis experts from several different countries in Europe, people across the globe are currently at a higher risk for cutaneous adverse skin reactions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizers, and prolonged hand washing with the use of soap have increased the risk for these reactions. In Wuhan alone, the Task Force authors indicated, approximately 74% of healthcare workers reported adverse skin reactions to PPE and extra sanitation precautions during the health crisis.

Severe hand dermatitis is a potential adverse skin condition associated with excessive hand washing with soap, particularly soap that contains fragrance. Although hand washing is an essential and effective component of infection prevention, the Task Force recommends hand dermatitis can be prevented with the use of fragrance-free soap with preservatives that have a low sensitizing potential. Traditional hand soaps could be replaced by alcohol-based hand solutions that contain glycerin, which provides moisturizing factors. The Task Force suggests these solutions could be used within healthcare centers. A fragrance-free light moisturizing lotion after hand washing is also recommended to reduce the risk of skin dryness.

In addition, for healthcare workers who wear gloves for prolonged periods, the Task Force recommends wearing cotton gloves underneath rubber gloves to prevent sweating and skin irritation. To reduce the risk for mechanical/friction dermatitis associated with PPE, such as masks and protective glasses, the Task Force recommends the use of hydrocolloid dressings at specific pressure points of the face and ears. Fixation of dressings with either silicone gels or dimethicone polymers may reduce the risk for adverse skin reactions associated with PPE.

The Task Force authors emphasized that “correct hand hygiene, adequate glove use, as well as hand and facial care are recommended in the general population and particularly among healthcare personnel.”

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Disclosure: Several study authors declared affiliations with the pharmaceutical industry. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.

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Balato A, Ayala F, Bruze M, et al. European Task Force on Contact Dermatitis statement on coronavirus 19 disease (COVID-19) outbreak and the risk of adverse cutaneous reactions [published online April 30, 2020]. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. doi: 10.1111/jdv.16557