Intended for healthcare professionals


Avoiding hand eczema in healthcare workers

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 12 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8370
  1. Kim Thomas, associate professor 1,
  2. John English, consultant dermatologist2
  1. 1Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2NR, UK
  2. 2Dermatology Department, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham, UK
  1. kim.thomas{at}

Good evidence that individualised education can lead to secondary prevention

Occupational hand eczema in healthcare workers is common worldwide and an important public health concern.1 In our institution, and probably across the whole of the healthcare sector, the rise in incidence and prevalence has mirrored the campaigns to reduce hospital acquired infections.2 It is perhaps not surprising that irritant contact dermatitis occurs in people who wash their hands as often as 50-60 times a shift, and because damaged skin often carries a higher bacterial load,3 this also has implications for infection control. Fortunately, this problem is potentially amenable to prevention strategies.

In a linked research paper (doi:10.1136/bmj.e7822), Ibler and colleagues evaluate the usefulness of a structured skin care intervention to prevent hand eczema among healthcare workers in Denmark.4 Primary prevention generally involves the introduction of a skin protection programme,5 which includes reducing exposure to irritants, regularly using fragrance-free and lipid-rich moisturisers, and wearing occlusive gloves for …

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