Excessive hand wash causing dermatitis: Study

MANGALURU: Excessive hand washing and use alcohol-based rubs since the beginning of the pandemic has is causing excessive dryness, flaking and cracks on skin (hand dermatitis), according to a study conducted by the researchers of dermatology department of Fr Muller Medical College (FMMC).

The study was conducted by Dr Monisha Madhumita, final year PG resident, department of dermatology, FMMC, under the guidance of Dr Ramesh Bhat M, vice-dean and professor of dermatology. It was recently presented at EADV’s 2021 Spring Virtual Symposium. As many as 582 people, including 291 healthcare professionals and 291 healthy individuals, were part of the study.

Monisha said stringent adoption of hand hygiene practice is essential to stop the virus spread. “However, this has also resulted in increased irritation and dryness of hands. Healthcare workers and the general public are at increased risk of irritation, dryness, redness and cracked hands (irritant dermatitis) due to frequent hand washing and use of alcohol-based hand rubs. An effective hand sanitiser contains at least 60% alcohol to kill germs and it can dry the skin. Measurements of trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) was done. It is an essential parameter for characterising skin hydration and protective function. Both of which are disrupted in irritant hand dermatitis,” Monisha said.


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The results showed the prevalence of hand dermatitis among healthcare workers and the public to be 92.6% and 68.7%, respectively. Only 7% of healthcare workers and 3% of the public used hand moisturisers after washing hands or using alcohol rubs. “The main challenge to the consistent practice of hand hygiene among the users was skin irritation and dryness,” she added.

How to prevent it?

Simple measures include using lukewarm water while washing hands with soap, moisturising immediately after washing the hands with hand creams or ointments. Fragrance and dye-free moisturisers are preferred as they are less irritating to skin. Using a moisturiser after hand wash does not negate one’s hand-washing efforts, but it prevents open wounds that can arise from dry/ cracked skin.

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