Preventing Coronavirus Exposure When You Have Psoriasis and Eczema

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Living with psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, or eczema, means I’m always thinking twice about what might exacerbate these skin conditions. I need to especially consider what in my environment might trigger itchiness or rashes. Now, as we’re all faced with the novel coronavirus, I’m even more vigilant about how practices such as frequent hand-washing and disinfecting may affect my health.

Take, for example, a recent shopping trip to my local Costco. I grabbed a shopping cart before entering, much like any other time. On this visit, though, a bleach wipe container sat on a table inside the door. I dutifully took a wipe to disinfect the cart handle. Then I looked at my hands, wondering if I should wipe them too and thinking about how it might irritate my skin.

A Universal Need for Prevention and Protection

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website lists ways to protect yourself from exposure to the coronavirus. I’m already at a higher risk for serious illness because I have asthma. I’m also concerned that I might be at a higher risk because I take a biologic to treat psoriasis.

RELATED: What You Need to Know About the New Coronavirus if You Have Asthma

The National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board’s recommendations for those with psoriatic disease state that “patients with severe disease, those on potentially immunosuppressive therapies and those presenting with comorbid conditions may be at a higher risk for infection.” They recommend patients contact their healthcare provider’s office with any concerns related to treatments such as biologics.

Even if you are not in a higher risk group for COVID-19, the public health message is for everyone to follow measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Moisturize After Cleaning Hands

A repeated message to stop the spread is to clean hands frequently, ideally with soap for at least 20 seconds. If soap is not available, then hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol serves as a replacement. Unfortunately, frequently cleaning my hands dries them out. Soaps and hand sanitizers can contain perfumes that my skin reacts to as well.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends that you leave some water on your hands when drying them and apply hand cream or ointment while they’re still damp. The AAD also points out that dermatologists recommend using a cream or ointment that contains mineral oil or petrolatum and says it’s “fragrance-free” and “dye-free.”

Distract From Touching Eyes, Nose, and Mouth

Another CDC guideline is to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, because they can serve as pathways for the virus to enter the lungs and throat. Germs can spread when you touch a contaminated surface, such as a doorknob or countertop, and then touch your face.

Touching the face is something people often do without even noticing. A study published in February 2015 in the Journal of Infection Control observed that students touched their faces 23 times an hour, with 44 percent of touches involving a mucous membrane. With rashes on my face, including my eyelids, it can be very difficult for me not to touch my face.

On their website, the National Eczema Association responded to questions related to the coronavirus, including how to avoid touching facial eczema. Their first recommendation is to practice distraction techniques such as “playing handheld video games, arts and crafts, or playing a musical instrument.”

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