More than two-thirds of people may now have hand dermatitis due to stringent hand washing and using alcohol-based rubs during the Covid-19 pandemic, indicating the emergence of a skin disease epidemic, according to a study led by Indian researchers.

Researchers at Father Muller Medical College in Mangalore, Karnataka, analyzed transepidermal water loss (TEWL) — an essential parameter for measuring skin barrier function — from 582 people, including 291 healthcare professionals (HCPs) and 291 healthy individuals from the general population.

The results indicated that hand dermatitis was now present among 92.6 per cent of HCPs and 68.7 per cent of the general population. Only 3 per cent of HCPs and 2.4 per cent of the general public in the study had reported a prior history of hand dermatitis.

Increased dryer skin was also noted in females and intensive care professionals, which was associated with high frequency of hand washing and use of alcohol-based hand rubs.

“This research truly demonstrates the impact of increased hand washing and uptake of alcohol-based rubs on the hand skin health of HCPs and the general public. Moreover, we now know that using TEWL to measure skin barrier function can help us compare the efficacy of various barrier protective measures, and discover suitable modifications of hand hygiene practices and products to help prevent hand eczema,” explained Monisha Madhumita from the varsity.

The participants also stated that skin irritation and dryness was the main barrier to the consistent practice of hand hygiene.

“This research shows there is now a skin-disease epidemic within the Covid-19 pandemic. It is promising to see this problem is recognized, and I am excited to see how the dermatology community goes about finding potential solutions to this issue,” Marie-Aleth Richard, EADV Board Member and Professor at the University Hospital of La Timone, Marseille, adds.

Finding suitable modifications to practices and products that may increase the accessibility of proper hand hygiene is something of vital importance to many in our community, the researchers said.

The findings were presented at the two-day EADV’s 2021 Spring Symposium held online from May 6-7.