450 Percent Increase Of Dermatitis In Hospital Staff Linked To Increased Hand Washing Since 1996

Hospital health care workers are sacrificing their health for infection control. Dermatitis from hand washing is increasing.

Dermatitis among UK hospital workers has increased by 450 percent since 1996, according to a new study from researchers at the Institute of Population Health at The University of Manchester. While work-related dermatitis decreased in other fields, hospital staff members are itching more now than just before the turn of the century. Hand washing procedures have become more stringent in hospitals as healthcare workers fight against the transmission of superbugs like hospital acquired MRSA.

The dermatitis incidence study was published in the British Journal of Dermatology. The researchers analyzed a national database of reports that had been sent in by dermatologists from across the UK. They found that health care workers, such as hospital staff members, were four and one-half times more likely to suffer from contact dermatitis in 2012 than they were in 1996. Contact dermatitis makes the skin look red, sting, burn, and itch.

According to Medical News Today, the reduction of infections transmitted is considered worth the price hospital staff is paying, but more can still be done. As more hospital employees suffer from worsened dermatitis, they may carry infections due to broken and damaged skin. Additionally, the authors of the study suggest that when hand washing is painful due to dermatitis, they may be less inclined to wash their hands.

Dr. Jill Stocks led the dermatitis study and suggested that new products need to be developed that will be less likely to cause irritation from washing and more products should be created to treat contact dermatitis in those who do end up with the painful condition.

“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.”

The researchers concluded that increased efforts towards figuring out which products put healthcare workers at greatest risk for contact dermatitis and implementing procedures that will result in the least risk of the condition for hospital staff and front line workers is warranted.

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