Gloves and Skin Irritation

Gloves and Skin Irritation

Nataliya Slesarenko

Health and Safety policies inform healthcare workers to constantly use personal protective equipment (PPE) for their own safety and safety of people they support. PPE significantly impacts the skin of healthcare professionals and leads to the development of unpleasant skin conditions.

According to statistics, nearly 50% of nurses suffer from work-related skin disease, such as allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis (Dermnet NZ, 2021).  The most common skin issues among healthcare workers include latex allergy, contact dermatitis and mechanical injury.

Let’s talk about gloves. Hand eczema, dermatitis and other skin issues happen due to using gloves for many hours every day, frequent handwashing, and being in contact with different chemicals that are used for cleaning, disinfection etc.  The best way to prevent skin irritation is to minimise/avoid contact with irritants and allergens, which is problematic for healthcare workers.

Use the right gloves. Latex gloves ensure the best protection in healthcare but may cause allergic reactions, so nitrile gloves can be used instead. Vinyl gloves should not be used for healthcare workers in direct contact with bodily excretions. Powder in gloves may also cause irritation, allergy, and dry skin.

Use of appropriate emollients/moisturisers during work hours and at home will strengthen healthy skin, provide a barrier, and protect the skin.

In deterioration of hand eczema, doctor may prescribe topical corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and antibiotics for secondary infection.

To reduce painful cracks on the skin some alternative methods can be used. For instance, compress with warm olive oil for 10-15 minutes will soften the skin and reduce irritation.

It is not easy to manage chronic skin issues related to the health care industry because healthcare professionals cannot stop wearing gloves or using required chemicals in the workplace. However, using preventive methods can be really helpful to reduce risks of development/deterioration of unpleasant skin conditions.

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