Regular hand washing is one of the most effective means to shield against coronavirus. Despite some localized lockdowns many countries have already begun the process of rebooting their economies and reopening businesses. Although interactions outside of the home are still limited, and social distancing protocols are still vital, many of us are regaining a small semblance of normal life. Whether this is returning to work, seeing friends, or other activities. This may mean that once again, hand washing is of vital importance and our need to do so may have increased from lockdown. As some countries approach winter, our hands may inevitably become chapped anyway but with the added abrasion of constant hand washing, our skin can become irritated and sore. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep your hands as pain-free as possible.
It is advised that you wash your hands for 20 seconds, with soap, fully scrubbing all sections of your hands. The coronavirus is passed predominantly through respiratory droplets, exhaled when coughing, sneezing or talking et cetera. These droplets can infect another person by being breathed in through the nose or mouth, or entering the body through the eyes. These droplets may also land on surfaces and can be then transferred to a person’s hands via touch. Whilst the coronavirus particles cannot be absorbed through the skin, infection occurs when a person then touches their face, i.e. the eyes, nose or mouth.
This is why handwashing is of utmost importance, as it acts as a barrier between these stages of infection. Soap particles effectively attack the outer shell of the coronavirus cells, dissolving them and causing them to ‘spill their guts’ making them ineffective. The water then washes away the cells. Hand sanitizers are not as effective as washing your hands, but when out and about and unable to access hand washing facilities, they are an effective compromise. Hand sanitizers should have a 70% concentration of alcohol and the ethanol within the solution attacks bacteria and viruses, killing them. However, it does not work on all germs but has proven to be effective against the coronavirus. Like continued hand washing, the sanitation of your hands can also be abrasive but necessary. It is still very important that you carry on washing your hands but you can alleviate pain and reduce irritation.
Your skin is effectively a natural barrier and taking care of it is very important to both your well-being and physical health. In an article for The Independent, Dr Susan Mayou, a consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, said: ‘repetitive hand-washing can damage the integrity of the skin as a barrier, stripping away natural oils and causing hands to become dry, sore and irritated, if you have damaged the skin it becomes less effective as a barrier against infection so moisturizing is essential – but definitely don’t stop the hand-washing!” If you suffer from skin conditions such as eczema or your hands are suffering from extreme dry skin it is important to consult your doctor or pharmacist for specialized treatment.
Skin that is irritated by handwashing can become sore, inflamed, cracked and extremely dry. After you have washed your hands, dry them with a clean towel but leave them slightly damp. If you prefer you can also leave your hands to air dry. Whilst they are still slightly damp apply cream or ointment, massaging the moisturizer everywhere including your fingertips and nails. When choosing a cream, avoid brands that contain dyes and fragrances. Dermatologists recommend creams that contain mineral oil or petrolatum and come in a tube rather than a bottle. Hand creams rather than lotions are recommended to help reduce skin irritation and moisturize. Brands such as E 45, Aveeno, Neutrogena, CeraVe and Cetraben are popular options. If you are using hand sanitizer, apply moisturizer after the sanitizer has dried. You can also deeply moisturize your hands overnight, by applying a thick cream and wearing breathable cotton gloves to lock in moisture and help your hands recover. Some brands also offer an overnight hand mask.
Some dermatologists also recommend using a non-irritating soap, sensitive soap or moisturizing hand wash in place of traditional soap as it can be hydrating and less harsh for the skin. Antimicrobial emollient hand wash both kills microorganisms and protects your hands. Added ingredients such as aloe vera and shea butter can be soothing alongside other natural ingredients such as olive oil, coconut oil et cetera. Soaps with a lot of fragrance can be irritating so try to avoid them, there are also plenty of soaps that are marketed towards sensitive skin so should be less abrasive. It may also help to wear gloves when you are washing up, cleaning or interacting with chemicals or water in any way. This will just add another protective barrier for your skin and prevent chemical irritants reaching them.
Overall, it is of vital importance that you do not stop washing your hands regularly but instead integrate moisturizing into your routine to help alleviate irritation and recover chapped hands.