Medical staff treating COVID-19-infected patients found that 42.8 per cent experienced serious skin injury related to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, goggles, face shields, and protective gowns, according to a study.
The study, published in the journal Advances in Wound Care by a large team of Chinese researchers, said that these skin injuries put staff at increased risk of infection, with insufficient prevention and treatment measures in place.
"We wanted to investigate the prevalence, characteristics, and preventive status of skin injuries caused by personal protective equipment (PPE) in medical staff," the authors wrote.
Survey conducted online
A cross-sectional survey was conducted online for understanding skin injuries among medical staff fighting COVID-19 on February 8–22. Participants voluntarily answered and submitted the questionnaire with a cell phone.
The researchers found the overall prevalence of skin injuries was 42.8 percent with three types of PPE-related skin injuries: device-related pressure injuries, moist associated skin damage and skin tear.
Several factors increased the risk for skin injury: heavy sweating, greater daily wearing time, being male, and using grade 3 versus grade 2 PPE.
Bound by a few limitations
Because of the emergency situation, there are some limitations to this study, such as it was difficult to observe the adverse outcome of skin injuries among medical staff and impossible to compare the results of prevention and treatment measures.
"These might leave us opportunities for further study," the researchers noted. Another study, published in the Journal of Wound Care last month, emphasises the problems that can arise with face masks, being worn for long periods by healthcare professionals.
The researchers suggested that people wearing masks keep their skin clean, well-hydrated and moisturised and that barrier creams should be applied at least half an hour before masks are put on.