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Coronavirus UK: How to look after dry skin caused by handwashing and sanitiser

Washing your hands is important. Please do it.

Wash them when you cough, when you sneeze, before you eat, after you eat and any time you touch your mouth or nose. Just keep washing them.

However, you might find that using soap and hand sanitister more often leaves your skin feeling dry and irritated.

Please don’t take this as a sign to stop the washing. We all need to keep doing it but dermatologists say it’s important to moisturise too as not doing so can actually make you at risk of infection.

Dr Ismat, a dermatologist at Pulse Light Clinic, explains: ‘Whilst washing your hands is the best way to clear any germs we may harbouring, repeated handwashing can be very drying and irritating for the skin.

‘Irritated skin is vulnerable to becoming cracked and sore and then has an increased risk of infection. This is even worse for people with already sensitive, damaged or fragile skin such as eczema.

‘Itchy, dry, cracked skin reacts to irritants even more and is more permeable to infection, because of damage to the outer skin “barrier” layer allowing easier passage of irritants and infection.

‘The damaged barrier also means skin has difficulty retaining moisture and its natural skin bacteria are disrupted.

‘ It’s really important to maintain the skin’s barrier layer, reducing vulnerability to infective agents and irritants as well as reducing water loss.

‘Keeping the skin well moisturised and avoiding irritants is key.’

There are some things you can do though to try to keep your skin healthy and free of germs.

Get a good hand cream

Moisturising is an important step when it comes to looking after your hands. Choose a good hand cream that is nourishing but won’t cause irritation.

Dr Yusra Al-Mukhtar, founder of dryusra.com, says: ‘It’s important to moisturise your hands several times a day. Look for nourishing hand creams with vitamin E and ceramides to hydrate and replenish lost moisturise and prevent further moisture loss and cracking.’

Don’t worry, hand cream won’t prevent your soap and hand sanister being effective.

Dr Ismat adds: ‘Once you’ve done the job of cleaning your hands – adding moisture with an emollient is not a negative at all. Again sticking to a good effective moisturising agent with minimal additives (fragrance/colouring) is ideal.’

Use a non-irritating soap

You can also find soaps that help to moisturise your hands when you wash and Dr Ismat says that these are still effective. If you can manage to find any in the current climate of stockpiling, go for one with added emollients or moisturising agents.

Dr Ismat adds: ‘Many of them don’t lather up people and worry they are not as effective but by ensuring the skin’s barrier stays intact, they are likely to be more effective than normal soap.

‘Aveeno, Dermol, Oilatum etc. are some options. These are just as effective at cleaning hands but non-drying and non-irritant.’

Try a hand sanister with added moisturiser

When and how to use hand sanitiser

You can get hand sanitisers with added moisturiser too, which can again help with dry skin. Obviously, there is a shortage of the stuff everywhere and you might have to take what you can find but if you have the choice, choose something a little more moisturising.

It’s also better to use soap and water and hand sanitiser should only be used if you are out and about and running water is not available.

Avoid anything abrasive

You just want to strip away the germs – not everything else.

Anything abrasive will make your hands worse, so don’t be tempted to use anything exfoiliating. You just need to add moisture.

Dr Yusra adds: ‘Abrasive cleansers, over-washing hands, or not replacing the essential skin oils that can be lost, will dry the skin and cause cracking;  resulting in an increased risk of infection, itchiness and soreness.’

What is the coronavirus and where did it start?

Coronaviruses are a family of diseases which include the common cold and the virus which caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which originated in China in 2002 and killed nearly 800 people around the world.

The virus causing concern now is a new strain which has made the jump from animals to people, named Covid-19.

It causes fever and a cough and can make it hard for people to breathe, causing viral pneumonia in severe cases.

Over 2,700 people worldwide have now died after contracting the illness.

The virus is more likely to progress into a severe illness or prove fatal among older patients or those with weakened immune systems.

As it is a viral illness, antibiotics will not help and there is no known cure or vaccine.

To avoid the illness, take usual hygiene precautions, such as using a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes, and making sure to wash your hands.

Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth after touching things like poles on public transport and avoid close contact with people suffering an acute respiratory infection.

You should also avoid unprotected contact with wild or farm animals.

So far, 13 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK.

Hundreds have been tested for it here, with most of the tests coming back negative.

The virus originated in the city of Wuhan in China, where it is believed to have made the jump from animals to people at a seafood market.

Wuhan is the capital of China’s Hubei province, a landlocked province in central China.

It is built along the Yangtze river, and is around 500 miles west of Shanghai and 690 miles north of Hong Kong.

It is the largest and most populous city in central China, although estimates over its population vary.

Keep washing your hands

Yes, in case we haven’t stressed this enough, please don’t stop washing your hands if they are irritated.

The British Association of Dermatologists wants to stress that hand sanitation is incredibly important, even if you are suffering with dry skin.

A statement said: ‘Current advice is to wash your hands with soap or a soap-substitute moisturiser and water often – doing this for at least 20 seconds.

‘We are not in a  position to offer any advice additional to that provided by infection control experts, which lists hand sanitation as an important part of infection control strategies.’

However, they did highlight advice on how to manage skin disorders like hand eczema.

The statement continued: ‘Moisturisers (emollients) are an essential part of treating hand dermatitis. They help repair the damaged outer skin and lock moisture inside the skin making it soft and supple again. They should be applied repeatedly throughout the day and whenever the skin feels dry.

‘Applying an emollient after washing can help, and some people find that applying an emollient to the hands overnight while wearing cotton gloves is beneficial.

‘When the hands are going to come into contact with water or detergents, but when not specifically washing the hands (such as when washing up, shampooing a child’s hair, or using cleaning products), wearing latex or rubber gloves will help to keep the skin’s barrier intact.’