Coronavirus News Update: PPE Wearing Is Hard on Skin

corona virus visualized by purple cirlcle and thorn around - ca | Coronavirus News Update: PPE Wearing Is Hard on Skin | Feature
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In the latest coronavirus news on PPE wearing is hard on the skin, we look at how healthcare workers using PPE for COVID-19 are reporting more adverse skin conditions. 

RELATED: Coronavirus News Update: New COVID-19 Mutation Allows It To Be More Infectious

In this article:

Coronavirus News: PPE Wearing Is Hard on Skin

  1. Background
  2. Causes of Skin Problems
  3. Types of Skin Conditions
  4. Case Studies
  5. How Telemedicine Can Help 
  6. Summary

Adverse Skin Reactions of Health Care Workers


The global coronavirus pandemic has changed people’s lives, from the economy to changes in daily routine. The world we now see is undoubtedly different from that a year ago in one aspect or another. But, for frontline medical workers, now their skin is ever-changing. 

Although COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was identified in January 2020, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was first recognized in 2003. It was the first severe and readily transmissible new disease to emerge in the 21st century. Since then, healthcare workers around the world, specifically in affected countries, we, and still are, exposed to the regular wearing of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Causes of Skin Problems

a woman is adjusting mask on her kid - ca | Coronavirus News Update: PPE Wearing Is Hard on Skin | Causes of Skin Problems

Skin conditions can easily be caused by the use of:

  • Wearing face masks for extended periods.
  • Using liberal amounts of sanitizer gel. 
  • Much more than usual amounts of hand washing. 
  • Pressuring personal protective (PPE) equipment – wearing gloves, isolation gowns, face masks, face shields, goggles, etc.

Types of Skin Conditions

a girl is sneezing - ca | Coronavirus News Update: PPE Wearing Is Hard on Skin | Allergic Reactions

Such disorders can include:

  • Skin Irritations and Dermatitis

This can happen when the skin is exposed to recurring wet-dry situations. Masks can get damp from a build-up of sweat and moisture. Healthcare workers wearing PPE reported that they sweated heavily and produced more perspiration because of PPE and hard work. This changed the microclimate of their skin as it was exposed to more moisture, and the skin temperate was lowered. 

  • Allergic Reactions

Burning, itching, and stinging can also be caused by allergies from the chemicals used in making PPE.

  • Pressure-related Injuries and Pressure Indentations 

Since December 2019, the medical staff fighting against COVID‐19 frequently reported device‐related pressure injury (DRPI). Some healthcare workers must wear PPE for up to 12 hours. These long periods of use are more than just uncomfortable. They are damaging, causing bruising and sores.  

  • Worsening of Wrinkles

PPE pushing on muscles and skin for long periods can cause long term wrinkles.

  • Dry Skin

Using disinfectants and detergents in hand sops for prolonged periods impairs the outer layer of skin. This hydrolipidic mantle acts as a barrier to protect the skin from harmful micro-organisms. Serious damage can include cracking, which can then bleed, increasing the risk of disease and infection further.

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Case Studies

Healthcare staff in Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the National Skin Centre in Singapore were surveyed using questionnaires

Of around 307 workers who participated in the study, 14.3% of the respondents were doctors, 73.0% nurses, and 12.7% other ancillary staff. They reported the following problems:

From wearing masks regularly:

  • acne (59.6%)
  • facial itch (51.4%) 
  • rash (35.8%)

From wearing gloves regularly:

  • dry skin (73.4%)
  • itch (56.3%)
  • rash (37.5%)

How Telemedicine Can Help

Find out all about telemedicine here – What Is Telemedicine? Telehealth Services Explained. Teleconferencing reduced the time that medical staff has to wear PPE, and in some cases, not at all. The CDC states that “changes in the way that health care is delivered during this pandemic are needed to reduce staff exposure to ill persons, preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), and minimize the impact of patient surges on facilities.”


Although studies show that SARS transmission can be reduced from wearing facemasks and other PPE, the downside of wearing these for long periods is suffering from dermal irritation. 

Medical staff wearing PPE are increasingly reporting various skin problems, yet figures are not yet fully known. As studies continue, we will undoubtedly find out the full scope and impact. 

Using PPE is already synonymous with skin problems and adverse reactions. There need to be suitable alternatives for all staff and frontline workers as well as better dermatological treatments.


Did you enjoy reading “Coronavirus News Update: PPE Wearing Is Hard on Skin”? Are you a medical worker who is suffering from skin problems as a result of wearing PPE? Let us know your story in the comments section below.

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