Hand hygiene 101: A dermatologist’s tips for protecting yourself

Pair hand hygiene with social distancing to help avoid COVID-19

A man's hands are covered in soap in front of a faucet to illustrate a hand hygiene story.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, preventive measures become even more imperative.

The two biggest ways to protect yourself from the novel coronavirus are to practice proper hand hygiene and social distancing.

Dr. Tania Gonzalez Santiago, a Sanford Health dermatologist, offers some tips for hand hygiene and skin care.

What to use, when to use it

Dr. Gonzalez Santiago says there are a number of ways to ensure good hand hygiene, starting by using lukewarm water.

“Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,” she said. “Make sure to get between your fingers and around your nails.”

Dr. Gonzalez Santiago says the COVID-19 pandemic has created a greater need to wash your hands more frequently.

“Always wash your hands after using the restroom, visiting a public place and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing,” she said.

When soap and water aren’t available, Dr. Gonzalez Santiago recommends the use of hand sanitizer. The CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer made with at least 60 percent alcohol to effectively kill germs.

Dry skin

A higher frequency of hand-washing may lead to dry, cracked or inflamed skin. To reduce this risk, Dr. Gonzalez Santiago recommends, “moisturize immediately after washing your hands, while your hands are still slightly damp. It helps lock in the moisture on your skin.”

If you’re using hand sanitizer, as opposed to soap and water, Dr. Gonzalez Santiago says to make sure your hands dry completely before applying the moisturizer.

Fingertips and knuckles are higher-risk areas, she added.

“Make sure to get enough moisturizer on those areas.”

Moisturizer is safe

A common misconception is that moisturizing after washing your hands negates hand-washing efforts. Dr. Gonzalez Santiago says this is false.

Even if your hands are dry, continue to wash them.

“Some people can develop allergies and the inflammatory conditions of the skin like eczema, that can look like dry skin. If nothing seems to be treating your skin, consult a board-certified dermatologist, as you may require a prescription cream or ointment.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Dermatology, Wellness

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