Hand Dermatitis in Healthcare Workers

Because healthcare workers must wash their hands frequently they sometimes get dry, cracked or red skin that can also be painful.

Some Causes of Hand Dermatitis:

  • Frequent, prolonged contact with water
  • Harsh soaps
  • Low humidity
  • Cold weather
  • History of childhood eczema

What can you do to decrease the risk of this condition?

  • Use lukewarm water to wash your hands - never hot
  • Use the least harsh soap available
    • Good brands are Basis and Dove for sensitive skin
    • Avoid soaps with fragrances or botanical oils
  • Limit time in the shower or tub to the minimum necessary
  • At work, use alcohol foam when hands are not visibly soiled – it is less drying than soap and water
  • Use a bland moisturizer frequently
  • Use non-latex gloves
  • Do not wear gloves longer than necessary - frequent glove changes allow your skin to breathe
  • If you wear gloves to handle chemicals or do wet work, use loose fitting rubber or vinyl gloves, with cotton liners if possible

Self-care tips to protect and treat your hands if they become irritated:

  1. At bedtime moisten hands with a washcloth.
  2. While skin is still moist, liberally apply a bland emollient (such as Aquaphor)
  3. Wear thin cotton gloves as needed to keep sheets clean
  4. Leave emollient cream on over-night
  5. Reapply emollient after washing or bathing
  6. Seek medical care if your symptoms do not improve

Keywords: dermatitis, skin