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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Goldwasser, MD

Your skin during a pandemic

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

You might be surprised to learn, as I have been, that many of my recent virtual visits have revolved around three problems indirectly related to the current pandemic:

1. Friction blisters: Good for you! You have been walking your way through this crisis! Outdoor exercise is so beneficial, especially at this trying time. Remember, with every step you take, ill-fitting or wet footwear may be rubbing against your toes, the ball of your foot, or the skin over the achilles tendon at the back of your foot. Be sure to wear appropriate socks, and walking shoes or sneakers that fit properly. If you do develop irritation, don't let that stop you from walking. Simply cover the sore area with an adhesive bandage before you head out, and rethink your footwear. If you develop a blister, it is best to keep it intact as long as possible, to give the skin a chance to heal underneath. If the blister does break, wash the wound with soap and water, pat it dry, apply a healing ointment like petroleum jelly or coconut oil, and an adhesive bandage--repeat daily until you have healed, which might take a few weeks. If you are diabetic or immunosuppressed, or if you suspect your wound is infected, call or text me to arrange a virtual visit (914-768-4474). A topical or oral prescription may be necessary.

2. Hand dermatitis: Good for you, again! You have been washing your hands frequently to reduce your risk of Covid-19. Here are a few tips to prevent and manage the dryness and irritant contact dermatitis that may occur as a result:

A. Remove jewelry from your hands and wrists (better yet, stop wearing rings, bracelets, and watches for now).

B. Wash with gentle soaps or cleansers (I like Dove Sensitive Skin bar or body wash or face wash) and warm water. Be sure to wash the palms including the "hollow", the backs of the hands, under the nails (best to keep these short), the fingers including the thumbs, between the fingers (the webs), and the wrists.

C. Rinse thoroughly.

D. Dry thoroughly.

E. Moisturize immediately with a rich emollient. You can even use household products like coconut oil, vegetable shortening (e.g. Crisco), or petroleum jelly for this. Thin lotions in pump bottles are not particularly helpful. Avoid highly fragranced products.

F. When you go to bed, don a pair of cotton "beauty gloves" (or even a pair of socks on your hands) after moisturizing, and wear them overnight.

G. If your hands become red, and cracked or painful or itchy, call or text me to arrange a virtual visit (914-768-4474). A topical prescription may be necessary.

H. When you are doing housework, cooking, yardwork, childcare (feeding, changing, bathing) or hobbies, protect your hands. I especially like Bluettes and True Blue brands of cotton-knit-lined rubber gloves for wet work. Disposable vinyl or nitrile gloves should suffice for diaper-changing, cooking, and hobbies.

3. Pressure ulcers ("bedsores"): You had to know that binge-watching hours of TV would catch up with you--but you might not have known that you don't have to be bedridden to develop pressure sores. Prolonged sitting, coupled with pressure over bony prominences such as the coccyx or the "sit bones" can lead to skin damage. Because the skin is sandwiched between a hard bone and a chair/sofa, it is starved of the necessary blood flow that supplies it with oxygen. The net result is that a bit of the skin dies, and a sore or ulcer develops. As the name "pressure ulcer" implies, this is a physics problem, and the most important defense against this is to reposition frequently. Walk, stand, lie down, recline, and shift your weight frequently (every 15 minutes) so that your skin is not deprived of blood flow! Once the skin breaks down, be sure to coat it with an ointment, like petroleum jelly or aquaphor, and a dry bandage daily after washing, to encourage healing, which may take 4-8 weeks. If you are diabetic or immunosuppressed, or if you suspect your wound is infected, call or text me to arrange a virtual visit (914-768-4474). A topical or oral prescription may be necessary.

Don't allow this pandemic to prevent you from keeping up healthy habits! Walk smart, wash smart, and sit less!

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