Image by Martin Slavoljubovski from Pixabay

Since the Covid-19 epidemic began, the Internet has been flooded with hygiene tips to prevent the virus from spreading.

One of the main measures to avoid getting sick and spreading viruses and bacteria, is to wash your hands frequently. However, this simple gesture of daily hygiene can lead to epidermal problems such as irritation and dermatitis, if we do it in excess or with inappropriate products.

For this reason, we have compiled the scientific information available regarding hand hygiene and care.

Why is it important to wash your hands?

Most viruses and bacteria are covered with a lipid layer that protects them. This layer breaks in contact with soaps and alcohols (1). Therefore, handwashing with soap not only protects against infections, such as those of the coronavirus family, but also prevents other infections such as gastroenteritis or other respiratory diseases (2).

How to wash your hands?

We all know, or should know, how to wash our hands to maintain proper hygiene. But since the minimum duration of the soaping must be no less than 20 seconds (3) and it is difficult to calculate mentally, we have prepared this infographic with “I will survive” from Gloria Gaynor, to help count the time in songs.

If you are not convinced by our choice, you can make yours using your favorite song at:

https://washyourlyrics.com/

How often should I wash my hands?

Whenever we are going to manipulate or have manipulated objects or food that may be sources of contamination (3):

  • When you get home or after using public transport.
  • Before, during and after preparing food.
  • Before eating.
  • Before and after caring for a sick person.
  • After going to the bathroom.
  • After changing diapers or cleaning a child who has gone to the bathroom.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal feces.
  • After touching the trash.

Image by theresaharris10 from Pixabay

The key: a balance between hygiene and care

According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, it is enough to wash your hands with soap and water. However, if we do not have soap or we cannot wash our hands with soap and water at that time, it is advisable to use a disinfecting gel that has, at least, 60% alcohol.

On the other hand, excessive hygiene can lead to skin problems such as contact dermatitis. This occurs when, by the action of aggressive soaps or alcohols, the protective layer of the skin is removed, and it becomes redder and rougher (4).

Contact dermatitis is not serious, but it involves pain and irritation in the hands and even, when the skin cracks, it can favor the entry of microorganisms. In the most serious cases in which the skin is cracked, the use of corticosteroids is not recommended, since they could aggravate a possible infection (5) and it is recommended to consult a specialist.

Therefore, to prevent its appearance, it is important to use a non-aggressive soap in hand washing, dry them well and then apply a moisturizer cream or lotion that help maintain the skin’s barrier function.

  1. Brenda Goodman, MA. The Power of Hand-washing to Prevent Coronavirus. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/926373.
  2. Aiello, Allison E et al. “Effect of hand hygiene on infectious disease risk in the community setting: a meta-analysis.” American journal of public health 98,8 (2008): 1372-81.
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/esp/when-how-handwashing.html
  4. https://www.msdmanuals.com/es/professional/trastornos-dermatol%C3%B3gicos/dermatitis/dermatitis-de-contacto
  5. Drucker, A M et al. “Use of systemic corticosteroids for atopic dermatitis: International Eczema Council consensus statement.” The British journal of dermatology 178,3 (2018).