Saturday, February 14, 2015

Increased hand washing has led to rise in dermatitis among frontline hospital staff

A new study that examined incidence of work-related
dermatitis in the UK finds it went up more than four-fold in health workers following a national drive to get frontline
hospital staff to wash their hands more frequently - with
soap - to reduce spread of superbugs.

Yet, over the same time period (1996-2012), the incidence of
work-related dermatitis went down in other professions. This was the conclusion of a study by researchers from the Institute of Population Health at The University of Manchester, UK, who report their findings in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Reducing healthcare-associated infections such as MRSA has
been a priority in the UK over recent decades, as reflected by
improved hygiene procedures, note the authors.

For their study, the team looked at a national database run by
the university that contains reports voluntarily sent in by
dermatologists from all over the UK.

The purpose of the database is to collect reports of skin
problems that are caused or made worse by work.

Health care workers 4.5 times more likely to develop dermatitis in 2012 than 1996
The researchers found 1,796 out of 7,138 reported cases of
irritant contact dermatitis occurred in health care workers.

Further analysis showed that health care workers were 4.5
times more likely to suffer from irritant contact dermatitis in 2012 as in 1996. Yet in other professions, the incidence either fell or stayed the same over the period.

Irritant contact dermatitis is a skin condition that develops
following frequent exposure to a weak irritant like soap or
detergent that damages the outer layer of skin. The condition is
accompanied by a burning or stinging sensation and makes the
skin look red and feel itchy.

Hand-hygiene campaigns to reduce superbug spread need to address dermatitis risk
The period of the study includes the start of several NHS campaigns from 1999 onward to prevent the spread of healthcare associated infections, such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

The campaigns urged hospital workers, patients and visitors to practice hand hygiene such as frequent washing with soap or
using alcohol rub.

From the point of view of reducing infections and increased use of cleaning products, the campaigns have been very successful. In contrast to that, some might say the higher incidence of dermatitis among health care workers is a price worth paying.

But the researchers warn if the hand hygiene campaigns result in increasing levels of irritant dermatitis, they may be counter-productive.

Other studies have shown that infections linger longer in
damaged and broken skin, and also that people are less willing to keep washing their hands if they are sore.

Dr. Jill Stocks, who led the study, comments on this: In October 2014, Medical News Today reported on a study that found severity of psoriasis - an inflammatory skin disease that
affects up to 4% of people - is linked to raised risk of high
blood pressure. Writing in JAMA Dermatology, the researchers said they found the more severe a person's psoriasis is, the more likely they are to have uncontrolled high blood pressure.