The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has published a new guide to highlight the importance of nurses and healthcare professionals’ hands and how to keep them healthy.
‘Tools of the trade’ focuses on how to prevent contact dermatitis and manage the risks involved in using gloves throughout a shift. Advice covers making sure staff select the most appropriate glove for particular tasks as well as what do do when signs of dermatitis appear.
Staff should look out for skin reactions to pressure, radiation, heat, chemicals and trauma which can all cause redness; warmth and dryness through to the formation of blisters; flaking and cracking; and itching.
Dermatitis can occur on any part of the body but the skin on the hands is the most commonly affected area. Wearing gloves for long periods increases the risk of developing dermatitis and using the wrong glove for a particular job can cause the condition to develop. For example using gloves that don’t protect against chemicals can lead to irritant dermatitis.
Using alcohol-based hand gels can also increase the risk of developing dermatitis.
Staff are warned to look out for symptoms and to seek advice from their occupational health service, GP or health and safety adviser.
Occupational dermatitis can be prevented following a three-step approach: avoid-protect-check.
Avoid direct contact between unprotected hands and hazardous substances and/or wet work where this is sensible and practical. Protect the skin if you cannot avoid contact. Check hands regularly for the first signs of itchy, dry or red skin.