© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Is hand sanitiser creating another problem?

Jen Black
Dermatitis on hands.  Wikimedia Commons, James Heilman

People living with eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis risk triggering their current conditions while trying to combat Covid-19.

"Wash your hands" is the message we've been told since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, but for those with skin conditions, it's not that simple.  

The Unite Against Covid-19 website states when washing your hands: use soap, wash for 20 seconds, then dry. 

Although frequent handwashing minimises the risk of contracting and spreading the virus, the Australasian College of dermatologists' flyer says it could dry out the skin causing eczema and other conditions to flare. 

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Health did not recommend non-alcohol-based hand sanitisers for cleaning your hands but rather recommended hand sanitisers that contain an emollient (a hand moisturising property).

Dermatitis involves dry, red, itchy or inflamed skin, presenting itself in rashes, peeling, and sore cracks. 

Eczema Association Australasia (EAA), the New Zealand Dermatological Society and the Australasian College of Dermatologists all recommend using barrier creams or gloves  (such as rubber or nitrile gloves) when your hands are likely to come into contact with detergents, but for no longer than 20 minutes to avoid further irritation by sweat. 

Dermatological Society president Dr. Louise Reiche confirmed that "Yes, it is a real issue".  

Soap substitutes have not been proven to be as effective as hand sanitiser and soap to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection. EAA suggest using moisturiser 30 minutes after washing, when required and an extra thick layer overnight.