02 May 2020
By now, most you are probably familiar with the symptoms and complications of Covid-19. The global outbreak and continuing spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) have led to a death toll of 34, 000 to date (accurate as of 30th March 2020). Unless a vaccine or anti-viral is developed to eradicate Covid-19, the spread of Covid-19 looks likely to continue for a long while before it plateaus.
I’ve previously shared about how to improve your immunity against Covid-19 in this blogpost How to Improve Your Immunity Against Covid-19 (Wuhan Coronavirus). This post will focus on reducing the spread through hand hygiene. Other measures such as social distancing and mask wearing are of course as important.
With the global spread of Covid-19, masures aimed at preventing the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being taken very seriously. One effective and very affordable measure that you can take at home and work to reduce the spread of Covid-19 is the simple act of washing your hands.
Although patients who are infected with Covid-19 display symptoms such as cough, fever and tiredness; patients may seem well before they turn ill. During this “well period” or incubation period, the virus may be transmitted to another person. Proper hand washing has been found to reduce the bacterial and viral load on your hands; which in turn reduces the risk of transmitting microorganisms to someone else or another object. Singapore’s Ministry of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US have also reinforced the importance of hand washing for at least 20 seconds and to avoid touching your face to stop the spread of COVID-19.
In this blogpost I’ll be discussing:
• Hand washing VS using alcohol sanitisers;
• Why do hand washing and use of sanitisers cause dry hands?
• How to prevent and treat dry hands from washing
• How to choose a moisturiser for your hand
Washing your hands with water and soap is the best way to get rid of all types of germs and chemicals. Alcohol based sanitisers, on the other hand, can inactive some germs, but not all, when used correctly. However, you may not use an adequate volume of sanitiser or; you might wipe it off before it has dried. Also, if your hands are dirty, sanitisers are unable to remove debris.
Washing your hands with soap and water is preferred. However, if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol. Many studies have shown that alcohol based sanitisers with at 60-95% alcohol content are more effective at killing germs than sanitisers with less or no alcohol content.
The top layer of our skin contains a layer of oils and fats like ceramides that make up skin’s natural protective barrier. This lipid barrier reduces transepidermal water loss and protects against damage from the environment germs.
Frequent hand washing and use of sanistisers are a cause of irritant contact dermatitis. The lipids, oils and proteins that protect our skin are damaged, disrupting the skin’s protective barrier. If you have dry skin or conditions like hand eczema (atopic dermatitis), you are more likely to be predisposed to dryness, irritation and increased sensitivity of the hands.
If your hands are dry and inflamed, taking preventive and corrective steps are important. Your hands will continue to be irritated with continued hand washing and you might get a skin infection.
Here are some tips to prevent and treat dry hands with hand washing:
• Rinse with warm water. Avoid hot water because it would further irritate and dry your skin
• Pat your hands dry with a towel instead of rubbing; rubbing causes abrasions
• Leave your hands slightly damp and then moisturise
• Dry air also dries your skin so consider using a humidifier (personally, I make do with a diffuser)
• Choose a cream based moisturiser, because they contain oil or lipids that form an occlusive, protective seal over the skin to block out water loss and infections.
• Avoid allergens in your hand moisturiser e.g. retinoids, fragrances
• Look for ingredients that fortify the skin barrier (e.g. ceramides) and occlusives that lock in moisture (e.g. shea butter, dimethicones, petroleum)
If the dryness of your hands persists (and we all can’t stop handwashing), consider seeing a doctor. Irritant contact dermatitis or undiagnosed eczema may require medications such as steroids and advice on skincare for the hands.
You can also DIY a hand-mask. Use a thick hand cream of your choice and wear gloves over your hands while you sleep. Something affordable like vaseline will work.
If the dermatitis has settled and your hands are still dry, you can consider hand fillers. Hand fillers are a type of injectable moisturiser (e.g. Profhilo and Skinboosters) that deliver hyaluronic acid into the skin for longer lasting skin hydration. My blogpost, Hand Fillers: Turning Back the Hands of Time, will share more about US FDA approved hand fillers and show how I do hand fillers in my clinic in Singapore.
Please remember to take care of your hands! Frequent hand washing is necessary in light of the global spread of COVID-19 and there are ways you can get around it to prevent and treat hand dryness. Wash with warm water and moisturise immediately after washing are very simple tricks.
If your hands are still dry and inflamed, you might need to see your doctor to treat your irritant contact dermatitis. Besides skincare, hand fillers or injectable moisturisers are a consideration after the dermatitis has settled.
This post is part of a series of dermatological posts related to Covid-19. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy the following blogposts: