Frequent hand washing may be one of the best weapons to combat COVID-19, but this can also be a nightmare to people who suffer from hand eczema and other skin conditions like atopic dermatitis. About 31.6 million Americans are estimated to have symptoms of eczema, and I am one of them.
If you can relate, then you know all too well about our hands drying out, itching, cracking, bleeding, and possibly getting infected. I already wash my hands a lot due to having a new baby and changing his diapers, but now I have to add more of that to my already sanitary routine.
So, how do we cope and keep our hands happy and healthy? Below are some suggestions I have personally tried that have helped me:
1. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
That’s a no brainer, of course. Keep a good hand cream right next to all of the soap dispensers in your home — bathrooms, kitchen sink, laundry room, outdoor patio, etc., and make a conscious effort to lather your hands right after washing while they are still damp. Be sure to use lukewarm (not hot) water, still following the 20-seconds rule of hand washing, and then pat dry. Do not rub to lessen skin irritation.
Carry a tube of hand cream with you whenever you are not at home so you can help moisturize your hands and avoid the skin drying out, cracking, and itching. Just be sure to keep your tube’s surface sanitized as well to prevent it from carrying germs.
Two products I love right now are Exederm Flare Control Cream with hydrocortisone and Mustela Emollient Balm. By no means is this an ad nor I am getting endorsement deals from these companies, but these are the products that work for me.
2. Be a ‘Soap Nazi’!
Not to be confused with Seinfeld‘s “Soup Nazi,” ha. If you have found a handsoap brand that works for you, and you are prone to sensitivity if using different products, then bring your own soap to use when washing hands in public. We all know that using hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol feels like acid burning our skin, so remind yourself to bring your own soap. Again, just remember to sanitize the surface of your soap container.
The soap I use is the Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap in a lavender scent. It does not contain the additional bacterial-killing harsh agent, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that regular soap and water are just as effective at preventing illness as long as you use warm water and wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds.
3. Latex-free gloves are your other best friend!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise to disinfect frequently used items, for example: TV remote control, car keys, phones — and also disinfect surfaces like your kitchen counters, doorknobs, garage entrance keypad, and mailbox to name a few. Always use gloves when using cleaning products or antibacterial wipes to avoid skin contact with the chemicals that can irritate your hands. Be sure to use the latex-free gloves also to prevent any allergic reaction as well.
4. Get some sleep!
Just because you are staying at home, you probably want to binge on watching Netflix all night long once the kids are in bed. But this is actually the opposite of what you should be doing! Get some sleep. Use this time staying at home to catch up on your snoozes. While you are it, moisturize your hands and wear cotton gloves right before you go to bed.
5. Treat stress and anxiety.
Stressing out about the Coronavirus can be a trigger and can worsen your eczema and atopic dermatitis. Get off social media for a day or turn off the news. Sure, anxiety will never go away, but practicing mindfulness and trying to improve your emotional health can help to contain the flare-ups from my experience.
6. Seek professional help.
If all of the above are not enough, and you reach the point that your hands look infected, make an appointment with your dermatologist. It is an essential visit, so put on your face mask and ask your doctor for a topical cream prescription. In my case when I went to my dermatologist, he suggested I get the steroid shot to help calm the inflammation and heal my hands even with the constant hand washing.
Your quality of life and sanity are much more important right now, and cracked itchy hands are the last thing you need. Using the proper hand washing technique and keeping our hands healthy are some of the greatest ways we can fight this pandemic together — hand in hand!
For those of you battling hand eczema, what has worked well for you?