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Forum Name: Rheumatology Topics

Question: hands


 CrazyDaisyLou - Sun Jan 30, 2005 7:45 pm

I work in a kitchen in a nursing home and we wash our hands a lot because of working with food. I've noticed this year that my hands and wrists are really dry and a blotchy red, almost like a rash. Sometimes when I wash my hands they burn and less often crack open at parts and bleed. Right now they itch really bad. I was wondering if anyone could tell me what this could be and if there is a way to get rid of it?

Thanks. :D
 Kimberley C, RN - Sun Jan 30, 2005 10:19 pm

Hello Daisy Lou:
This is certainly a common problem, seen mostly in the winter months, as a health care provider I have experienced it myself. There are some steps however, that you can take to alleviate the problem. One of the prime concerns of dry cracked skin, is that it becomes a potential portal of entry for microorganisms, thus leading to infection. As a food handler this can potentialy then be passed back to those consuming the food you have handled. So, as well as being painful for yourself, you can see how it can have further implications. The facility you work in should be taking some steps to help alleviate the problem, if not you may want to bring this point up to them.
Firstly, do you wear gloves, and if so could latex be contributing to the problem? Having said that, gloves should be provided for employees, latex free if required, (it's better anyway.) Do wear the gloves as often as you can, while you will still need to wash your hands and change gloves after each task, they will protect your hands from harsh soaps and chemicals during washing up.
Secondly, try to stay away from waterless hand wash solutions when possible, they usually contain alcohol which will contribute to the problem. Wash your hands in warm, not hot water, with a gentle antibacterial soap. It does not need to be anything harsh or for industrial use. It's more important that you wash your hands thoroughly for 10 - 15 seconds.
Lastly, moisturize, moisturize! You must get water back into your skin, not just on the top layer of skin. Find a good emolliant base moisturizer, and use it after each hand wash, (bring a bottle to work and keep it just for yourself.) At bedtime there are two things you can try, either one is very effective at keeping dryness at bay.
i) Apply a good thick emolliant base moisturizer to clean, DAMP, hands, then put on a clean pair of cotton garden gloves for the night.
OR
ii) Soak hands in clear tepid water for 10 - 15 minutes, apply a good thick emolliant base moisterizer to DAMP hands, leave on for night.
It is a bit time consuming to follow through with these suggestions, but there really isn't any other way to alleviate the problem. Whatever you do please don't skimp on hand washing at all, it is very important. I hope this will help you. Let me know if this is effective for you.
Sincerley

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