Skin diseases/disorders Health care/social assistance Health Care Workers

Hand dermatitis prevention in health care: Research agency releases e-learning module

Photo: FatCamera/iStockphoto

Toronto — To increase health care workers’ knowledge, awareness and prevention of occupational hand dermatitis, the Center for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease has launched a free e-learning module.

The 10-minute module explains that hand dermatitis, which presents as a skin rash, often begins as dry skin. The condition, which is largely preventable but experienced by 20% of health care workers, can feature itchy, sore or burning skin that can scale, crack and bleed. Small water blisters also may develop.

Health care facilities in which workers are at risk include hospitals, long-term care facilities, dental offices, and home and community settings. Specifically, along with health care workers, those in dietary service and environmental service are at risk. Students, volunteers and others in health care settings are at risk as well.


Two forms of the condition can occur: irritant contact and allergic. The former makes up 80% of all cases and is caused by chemical substances or physical agents, while the latter can develop over a few weeks or after years of exposures on the job.

The center says a rash that includes breaks in the skin can leave workers more vulnerable to infection, and suggests using the Hierarchy of Controls to contribute to hazard prevention for each worker’s specific role. Workers are advised to perform regular self-screenings to detect skin rashes early so hand dermatitis can be treated and managed.

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