Dermatitis increasing in hospital staff due to hand washing policies

Dermatitis increasing in hospital staff due to hand washing policies
Dermatitis increasing in hospital staff due to hand washing policies

Dermatitis increasing in hospital staff due to hand washing policies

Dermatitis increasing in hospital staff due to hand washing policies
In nearly all hospitals whether patient, doctor or visitor it is common to see hand sanitizers all over the building. The need to wash hands on a repeated basis is essentially common sense in today’s health care system due to past incidents of bugs such as MRSA sparking campaigns for more effective virus reduction techniques. However a new study has identified that the increase in hand sanitization has led to increased incidents of work-related dermatitis.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Institute of Population Health at The University of Manchester. In the study the team used data from reports that had been voluntarily sent in by dermatologists.  The findings of the research team showed that out of 7,138 cases of irritant contact dermatitis 1,796 occurred in health care workers.

From this initial finding and analysis of previous years it was concluded that health care workers are 4.5 times more likely to suffer from irritant contact dermatitis in 2012 as in 1996. This is a stark contrast to other profession’s which have seen a steady decline over the same time period.

The rise in the amount of work-related dermatitis incidents can be related to several NHS campaigns which were introduced in 1999 to stop the spread of healthcare associated infections. Hospital superbugs as they were delicately labelled included infections such as MRSA. Many major news outlets highlighted the issue of these bugs to both staff and patients.

The aim of the campaigns was to urge everyone inside the hospital building such as patients and workers to frequently wash their hands. This often included several if not more washes a day for hospital staff that were treating patients on a regular basis.

It is important to note that these campaigns have been hugely successful in reducing infections in hospitals and in no way would anyone suggest ceasing this practice of hand washing to reduce work-related dermatitis. However other studies have identified that infections and viruses can linger longer in damaged and broken skin meaning there is an issue with whether a sufferer of contact dermatitis presents a higher risk.

To combat the issue of increased dermatitis rates the introduction of exam gloves during patient visits is an potential option however this could become costly and problematic with the constant changing of gloves with every new patient. Dr Cameron Rokhsar, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Health Systems suggested the use of a more effective moisturizer “The heavier the moisturizer the better it works”.

Dr Jill Stocks, lead author of the study, commented with the following

Campaigns to reduce these infections have been very successful and many lives have been saved. However, we need to do all we can to prevent skin irritation among these frontline workers. Obviously we don’t want people to stop washing their hands, so more needs to be done to procure less irritating products and to implement practices to prevent and treat irritant contact dermatitis”.

[1] “Dermatitis Rates Increasing As Hospital Hand Washing Policies Seek to Sanitize”, Chris Weller, Medical Daily,
[2] “Increased hand washing has led to rise in dermatitis among frontline hospital staff”, Catharine Paddock PhD, MNT Online,
[3] “Hand hygiene may not be the silver bullet for infections”, Heather Caspi, Healthcare Dive,