In cooperation with a dermatologist of a healthcare institute Dreumex answers questions regarding skin problems and hand care.
What kind of skin complaints are most common for auto mechanics?
There are different skin complaints that can occur. The most common are dehydration of the hands, eczema, hand and/or nail infections and leukoderma, which is a whitening of the skin.
What are some causes of skin complaints for auto mechanics?
Climatic circumstances (extreme temperatures or humidity) play an important role. When someone is doing his job in a damp garage, this can have influence on the condition of his hands. Also, people with activities where hands get wet will often have more skin complaints. Frequent hand washing or the use of “aggressive” hand cleaners also contribute to these issues.
Aggressive hand cleaners clean the hands well, but can damage the hands and cause dryness, cracking or other conditions. The frequency and duration of the use of the hand cleaner of course plays a role in that too. Additionally, a pre-disposition to eczema can be of influence; and sometimes, a contact allergy can arise which can also cause this problem.
Are skin complaints just part of the job?
Nonsense! Not every man or woman with skin complaints requires for medical attention. But in most cases the symptoms can be resolved with medical attention.
How can you avoid skin problems?
It’s important to protect your hands with gloves when you work with irritating substances; but wearing gloves isn’t possible or is very difficult in most professions. Gloves also have disadvantages.
Gloves can cause the hands to sweat which may lead to contact dermatitis. Skin and/or inhalant allergies may also occur due to the material of the glove. However, if you use a protective cream, gloves are often unnecessary.
Before you start working, use a protective cream which forms an invisible barrier on your skin. When you finish your work, it’s easier to get the dirt off your hands. After working, wash your hands. Use the right amount of soap and be careful not to wash your hands excessively. After you wash your hands, use hand cream to care for your hands. Do this consistently every day and you will see the difference in a couple of weeks. If you practice good hand care, it avoids many problems.
What else can I do to defend against eczema?
It is important to take good care of your skin. Washing with soap and water cannot be avoided; however cleanse carefully and use skin-friendly soap. Rinse hands thoroughly and pat dry, preferably with a dry clean towel.
Frequent contact with water and aggressive substances such as detergents, turpentine, benzene, etc. can make cracks in the skin which may cause eczema. Rubbing and scratching can worsen eczema or and cause further irritation.
It is wise not to wear rings. This avoids irritation from substances which can accumulate below the ring. Moreover, the fingers thicken through the eczema, making rings too tight and not normally removable.
Poor weather (cold, dry and windy) can worsen eczema. So use warm gloves and a neutral protective cream. This forms a protective layer around your skin. After work, wash your hands and cover your hands with a nourishing cream.
If there a contact allergy, you should avoid contact with the substance(s) which you are allergic to as much as possible. This is often easier said than done. It is also important to rest the irritated skin as possible. Even though it seems that the skin looks normal, in most cases, the protective function of the skin is not restored and healing takes many months. In that period, many factors can cause the eczema to reappear.
Source: Nederlandse Vereniging voor Dermatologie en Venereologie 2009
How big is the problem of skin irritation (contact dermatitis) for employees?
Contact eczema constitutes a substantial portion of occupational diseases. In Europe, it has had a permanent place in the list of top occupational diseases for many years. Contact dermatitis is often localized to the hands, which Fregert* demonstrated in a study. He observed that in a group of 1752 patients with contact dermatitis contact dermatitis was on the hands of 94% of women and 84% of men. In some sectors of the western economy, 1 in 2 people suffer some degree of hand eczema.
The five most commonly reported causes of contact dermatitis are: detergents (cleaning agents), water, metals, food and rubber. These factors cause approximately half of the number of contact eczema cases.
Occupations / sectors with the highest reported rate of contact dermatitis:
- Catering staff
- (Auto) mechanics
- Metal workers
Source: Nederlands Kenniscentrum ArbeidsDermatosen