Listen to Penelope Pratsou’s interview with BBC Radio Berkshire below
Andrew Peach: Let’s talk a bit more about handwashing. So we’ve all got the idea we’re supposed to be washing our hands. And if you go in the gents, and my wife tells me in the ladies as well, you’ll find like massive queues of people waiting for the sink, virtue signalling how well they’re washing their hands, all of that.
Can you wash them too much? How do you look after your hands in this regime? What about your kids at school, like Victoria from Earley’s son whose hands are red raw with all the washing he’s being asked to do at school? Here’s Dr Penelope Pratsou, Consultant Dermatologist from Reading Dermatology.
Dr Penelope Pratsou: Hello.
Andrew Peach: How do you look after your hands while you’re washing them all the time?
Dr Penelope Pratsou: That’s a really valid question, Andrew. There’s lots to it. I mean we all do have to be washing our hands and following these recommendations because of the coronavirus. But there are certain tweaks you can make to look after them. I mean first and foremost, you could just be using an emollient, after you wash your hands. So you could be carrying a travel size moisturiser and you could be moisturising right after you wash your hands. And I’m talking the really simple bland non-fragranced types of moisturizers, something nice and creamy but one that absorbs quite quickly.
Andrew Peach: So you’ll have to help me with this Penelope because it’s counterintuitive. How does washing your hands all the time dry them out?
Dr Penelope Pratsou: Well, it’s because water is an irritant for the skin. Soap is another irritant, and the alcohol hand gels are even more irritant. So they basically wear down the skin barrier because our skin actually works as a barrier against these irritants and allergens, as well as infection. So constantly washing is going to wear down that barrier, especially if you’re prone to dryness, prone to eczema. And then that results in a lot of irritation, hand dermatitis/ hand eczema, and then you end up needing more and more treatment, and you can’t actually then wash your hands as effectively as the government is asking you to do because your hands are really sore and dry and cracked.
Andrew Peach: And it seems to affect some people much more than others, and I don’t suppose that’s to do with the vigorous nature or otherwise, of the handwashing. Some people just have more sensitive skin on their hands, I suppose.
Dr Penelope Pratsou: Yes, one in five children in the UK have a tendency to eczema. Some of us do have a tendency to dry skin, and to be honest, if we’re actually washing our hands as often as the caller was talking about before, then we’re bound to actually get some dryness. It’s also the winter, so the cold is not helping our hands and our skin. Unless we’re actually moisturising and replenishing that moisture that we’re stripping away, this will happen. And then we’re prone to secondary bacterial infections as well because we’re introducing infections through little cracks in our-
Andrew Peach: In the skin? Yeah?
Dr Penelope Pratsou: That’s right.
Andrew Peach: So basically you moisturise. Okay, Penelope. Thank you very much.
If you notice that you have any of the symptoms or conditions that we’ve just discussed, we invite you to book a consultation with Dr Penelope Pratsou. She’ll be able to assess your situation and give you a personalised treatment plan.