Many people are suffering from severe eczema, inflammatory and infective hand diseases due to sudden change in the hand care process during this ongoing pandemic
Our skin is a mysterious and strangely beautiful structure considered to be the largest organ in our body. Not only does it cover our body, but also does a lot of other activities like protecting our body from environmental hazards including UV radiation, determining our colour, keeping away microorganisms, controling our body temperature by releasing sweat, getting rid of waste products, giving us the sensation of touch, heat, pain, and keeping moisture on the skin surface.
The skin has different thickness and internal structure distributions in different locations. The skin of our hands and feet are the thickest of all. This is due to the presence of an extra layer called stratum lucidum in our upper compartment of skin, and thicker stratum corneum, which is the outermost part of our skin. The skin on our hands, mostly on the palms, has numerous sweat glands; but it lacks oil-producing glands, also known as sebaceous glands. That’s why our hands become drier on and off. This is true for the sole of the feet as well.
Why should we worry about our hands in this pandemic?
We use our hands most frequently for doing daily activities. Hands may contain the culprit pathogen which may enter into our body through nasal, oral or eye roots. So, we have to keep our hands clean and safe. For this, we need to wash our hands with soap or hand sanitizer frequently. Using gloves is another way to protect our hands. All these protective measures may cause the following problems for our hands:
● Using too much soap or other products to wash hands may disturb the natural pH levels of our hands, as the “alkaline” soap interacts with “slightly acidic” skin surface. As a result, the protective barrier of our skin may get disrupted. This may eventually give rise to a ragged, dry, cracked skin, leading to the entry of microorganism, making it infected
● Too much use of water, soap, detergent, and sanitizer may cause nail bed infection, also known as paronychia
● Some people use disinfectants on the skin directly, which may cause a chemical burn, contact leukoderma (losing skin colour) or may cause irritant contact dermatitis
● Some soap or handwash may contain artificial colour or fragrance that may cause allergic contact dermatitis in sensitized individuals
● Using gloves made up of rubber (latex) can cause allergic contact dermatitis as well
● Using too much water and soap may make our nails brittle and vulnerable to fungal infections like onychomycosis.
● Keeping our hands wet may cause fungal infections between our fingers, also known in medical terms as EIB.
What can we do to prevent these consequences?
The fundamental goal of keeping our hands free from all the consequences mentioned above is to keep the natural barrier of our skin intact and follow the given advice:
● Use a moisturizer, preferably emollientsz after each episode of hand washing. The best way to use it is to pat your hands dry after using a hand wash and immediately apply the moisturizer as it will have a better penetration at that time. People who cannot afford moisturizer may use oil or glycerine instead
● Use mild soap, preferably one that doesn’t contain artificial colours or fragrances
● Pat your hands dry with a soft and clean cloth immediately after washing them
● Avoid wet work and getting in contact with detergents too often. Use kitchen gloves when you need to do the household chores
● Do not use the disinfectants directly on your skin, as they are made for object disinfection, not for our skin
● Avoid gloves made up of latex if your skin is sensitive towards it. (How do you know if you are allergic to latex? The answer is, you will see highly itchy skin bumps or vesicles on your hands within three to five days of using rubber gloves containing latex)
● A diabetic patient should be careful during this time, as their skin tends to be drier and more vulnerable to infections. After using a hand wash, they should pay more attention to air dry the hands and make sure no water remains on their hands. Pay attention to the skin between fingers where water may remain, as it may cause fungal infections.
● Avoid contact with metals that are made of nickel, chromium or cobalt, as they may initiate or worsen hand eczema
● Consult a dermatologist as soon as you notice any change in the skin of hands including itching, vesicles, fissure, scaling, etc.
Taking care of your hands is a challenge during this pandemic, as many people are suffering from severe eczema, inflammatory, and infective hand diseases due to sudden changes in the hand care process. We must keep our hands clean and safe from microorganisms; during this process, we should not underestimate the conditions that may arise which were mentioned above and we should bear in mind the preventive measures that have been discussed. In this way, we can not only keep ourselves free from Covid-19, but also can get healthier hands, which are essential for our daily activities.