Living with Eczema: Protecting Your Skin During COVID-19

The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has created extremely difficult times for many people across the globe.  Furthermore, people living with eczema have additional concerns arising because of this pandemic. Prevention measures for decreasing the spread of the coronavirus, unfortunately, can be aggravating factors for people with eczema, particularly on the hands or face.  Here are tips for eczema sufferers to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic:

Washing Hands Frequently

The viral spread of coronavirus can be reduced by washing hands frequently with soap and water.  However, for those with eczema on the hands, excessive washing can further dry out the skin, causing cracking and bleeding.  Washing the hands can also remove the topical medication used to help manage the itch and redness.

The CDC also advises that when you do not have access to soap and water, hand sanitizer should be used.  Unfortunately, hand sanitizers can cause more irritation and further dry out eczema on the hands.

Tips:

  • Get an ion exchange water softener for your home or water filter (hard water may aggravate eczema).
  • Use soap with a pH of 4-7 (closer to the natural acidity of the skin).
  • Pat dry or air dry your hands. Do not rub your hands dry.
  • Skip the hand sanitizer and wash your hands instead (if possible).
  • If you can’t skip the hand sanitizer, opt to use alcohol (ethanol) based sanitizer rather than the n-propanol or isopropanol which can be more irritating. 
  • After washing your hands in warm water and soap for 20 seconds, rinse in very cold water to help with itch and inflammation.
  • Use emollient or moisturizer after every time you wash your hands.

Masks

It is recommended and even made required in some areas, to wear face masks in public and/or at times when you cannot keep an appropriate social distance.  For people who are self-conscious of their facial eczema, the upside of wearing masks is hiding any flares of eczema on the face.  The downside is the material of the face mask may cause irritation and/or allergic responses.  As summer approaches, the heat along with accumulated moisture from breathing and speaking can cause sweating, which may aggravate eczema on the face and cause it to itch and rash leading to more severe flare-ups.  Also, the oozing may also cause discomfort as the skin can adhere to the fabric of the mask causing additional frustration and stress.

Tips:

  • Make your own mask with cotton or silk.
  • Use a hypoallergenic mask that has an exhale valve (decreases heat under the mask)
  • Get some sun without wearing a mask (while practicing physical distancing).
  • Stay cool to prevent sweating.

Cleaning & Gloves

The CDC recommends regular cleaning and disinfecting of commonly touched items and surfaces in the home.  These cleaning products and disinfectants can be very irritating to eczema-prone skin. WHO recommends the use of disinfectant chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite, chlorine, bleach solution (in recommended dilution) for disinfecting surfaces and objects. Some cleaning agents and household products can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause health problems that include cancer.

Gloves are not necessarily recommended to wear in public since hand washing is still necessary and given precedence.  If an eczema sufferer has open cuts on their hands, infections can easily occur and gloves can help prevent infections.  In addition, while cleaning and disinfecting the home, people with eczema may wear disposable or rubber gloves.  This can even be a concern for people with eczema on the hands, as the gloves can cause irritation and itching for some sensitive to the materials.

Tips:

  • Avoid any direct contact with disinfectants.  Wear gloves when cleaning.
  • Use cotton gloves and/or Dermasilk gloves to wear under vinyl/nitrile/rubber gloves for cleaning.
  • Consider first cleaning with soap and water.
  • Use wipes over sprays.  Sprays create mist in the air which may cause contact irritation.

It is always important to remember to manage stress when you have eczema (sometimes easier said than done, but an especially important factor to your overall health).  For simple ways of decreasing your stress and anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic, read my blog.  If you need help managing your eczema, schedule an appointment here.

Would you like to learn more about our upcoming Eczema Program? Sign up for updates here.

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