Healthcare workers sit squarely in the middle between optimum skin health and the risk of occupational disease. There is plenty to be fearful of when you work in healthcare. MSRA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is one of the more common health related occupational diseases. When it comes to skin care, healthcare workers face many different diseases from different fronts. People who work in healthcare must battle skin disease constantly.
Over-washing of hands and the use of antibacterial soaps or alcohol-based foam leads to skin breakdown and the destruction of healthy skin flora. Wearing PPE personal protection equipment, such as latex gloves can also cause skin irritation and abrasions.
The skin being a barrier and first line of defense against invasive disease becomes weakened when there are small tears, and abrasions that allow bacteria and virus to gain access. Even those tools designed to protect weak the skin and put workers at risk for occupational disease. Hand Washing is known to be a factor in the development of hand dermatitis, especially in healthcare workers.
Moisturizers & PPE
Many hospitals ban the use of personal moisturizers because not all of those products are compatible with latex gloves. If you are a healthcare worker and are able to use your own moisturizer, look for products that work in conjunction with latex gloves. Properties to look for include:
- Products that are water-based and that provide high levels of moisturization.
- Choose a product that has a pump applicator. Squeeze top bottles can become contaminated if the moisturizer is sucked back into the bottle.
- Keep the product personal. The fewer people using it, the longer it will remain uncontaminated.
- Avoid products that do not moisturize. Lotions with oatmeal and gluten are drying, and a drying agent will exacerbate the risk of hand dermatitis.
- Use Alcohol Gel or Foam rather than hand washing when the skin is not soiled. If your hands are soiled than water and washing is the best course of action. Studies have shown that washing your hands too frequently causes eczema.
The study also showed that there seems to be little difference between the occurrence hand eczema when alcohol gel was used and a significant difference when soap and hand washing was used by clinical staff. The study suggests that alcohol gel was not a significant factor for increased cases of hand eczema.
Home Treatments & Preventatives
When not working, and the risk of damage to PPE is gone, consider treating your hands and arms with heavier moisturizers that are ceramide based, organic and vegetarian. Again, not all oils are hydrating. Sunflower is one such oil that can be drying rather than moisturizing. Applying a thick layer of hydrating lotion or oil followed by the application of cotton gloves is one way to provide positive home-based hand therapy.