The incidence of dermatitis has increased 4.5 times in healthcare workers following increased hand hygiene as a drive to reduce infections, such as MRSA, has kicked in, claim UK researchers.
Researchers studied reports of skin problems caused or aggravated by work, which were submitted to a national database between 1996 and 2012 by 60% of UK dermatologists.
They found that out of 7,138 cases of irritant contact dermatitis reported 1,796 were in healthcare workers.
“We need to do all we can to prevent skin irritation among these frontline workers”
When the numbers were broken down by year, health workers were 4.5 times more likely to suffer from irritant contact dermatitis in 2012 as in 1996.
In two control groups, cases declined or did not change, said the study authors from Manchester University.
Prevention of healthcare associated infections, such as MRSA and C. difficile, became an NHS priority in 1999, and successive campaigns emphasised the washing of hands with soap or alcohol hand rub.
The campaign’s have been a success, with a reduction of infections reported and a greatly increased use of cleaning products, noted the study authors in the British Journal of Dermatology.
Dr Jill Stocks, who led the research, said: “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,” she said.