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Frequent Hand-Washing Tough on Those With Eczema
  • Serena McNiff
  • Posted August 21, 2020

Frequent Hand-Washing Tough on Those With Eczema

Hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses, but for people with skin conditions like eczema, lathering up frequently can lead to dryness, cracking, itchiness, pain and even an infection.

If you're struggling to balance pandemic hand-washing and skin conditions, Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, a dermatologist at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., offers some advice.

  • Regular washing is better than hand sanitizer: When you cleanse with soap and water, then immediately apply moisturizer, you can "offset much of the drying effects of hand-washing," Silverberg said in a news release from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. He recommends carrying a pocket tube of moisturizer so you can apply it on the go.
  • Avoid antiseptic and antibacterial soaps: You may not need them, as long as you scrub thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds and then rinse.
  • Moisturize properly: After washing, pat your hands until they are mostly dry, using a paper towel or tissue. "Once mostly dry, [i.e., your skin is still a little damp] apply a generous amount of moisturizer to coat the entire surface of your hands and fingers," Silverberg said.
  • Beware of gloves plus sanitizer: To avoid irritation from hand-washing, some people with skin conditions wear disposable gloves and then use sanitizer on them -- an approach Silverberg does not recommend. "When we apply hand sanitizer on our bare skin, we can feel if we covered the entire surface of the hands and fingers," he said. "But when wearing gloves, we limit the ability to feel this and might miss some spots on the gloves and then accidentally carry some germs." It makes more sense to change gloves and/or wash or sanitize hands often, Silverberg said.
  • Wear gloves when cleaning: Cleaning products are especially harsh on the skin. "People should always wear gloves when using antiseptic wipes and cleaning products," Silverberg said.
  • Sterilize containers: If you carry bottles of soap and moisturizer with you, clean and sterilize the containers to remove harmful germs. And remember: Moisturizer should not be applied unless hands are clean, to prevent contaminating the product.

More information

There's more about hand hygiene at the National Eczema Association.

SOURCE: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, news release
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