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Advice on coronavirus (Covid-19) for people with eczema

Last updated 25.06

As lockdown restrictions ease, we will continue to update this page as new information that may be relevant to people with eczema comes to light. For more general information on Covid-19, please see the NHS website.

Covid-19 patient experience survey

Please complete the SECURE-AD online patient survey if you have eczema and have also been diagnosed with Covid-19 or experienced Covid-19 symptoms. It takes only 10 minutes and the results will help improve the medical care for people with eczema who are infected with Covid-19. More details here about this ground-breaking global research initiative.

Which types of face coverings are the most eczema-friendly?

Face coverings made from 100% cotton that can be washed regularly are probably the most eczema-friendly type of covering. Cloth ear loops are less likely to irritate the skin than elastic ones. Also consider coverings that tie around the back of the head. ‘Mask headbands’ or hats with buttons are another option. With these, the elastic loops around the buttons rather than your ears. ‘Neck gaiters’, ‘buffs’ or ‘tube scarfs’, which are basically a tube of material, might suit too – if 100% cotton.

Make sure the covering fits snugly around your nose and mouth but isn’t tight.

Avoid applying ointment emollients to the face shortly before you put on a covering, as they might make the face too hot.

Supplier suggestions:

  • Greenfibres sells organic cotton face masks.
  • Pure Cotton Comfort sells organic cotton face masks for adults and children.
  • Skinnies sells viscose face masks with cloth rather than elastic ear loops.
  • Etsy has lots of different types of face coverings for sale. Search for the type you’re interested in.
  • ‘Handybands’ from Seasalt have been recommended to us by a Facebook follower. They can be used as face coverings as well as head bands. Face masks will also be available from Seasalt soon.
  • There are lots of guides and video tutorials showing you how to make different types of face covering, for example: BBC, YouTube.

If you have eczema or a family member with eczema, and have suggestions for eczema-friendly face coverings, we’d love to hear them.

How can I mitigate the effects of frequent hand-washing?

We recommend that people with eczema follow the government guidance to wash hands with soap and water, rather than an emollient soap substitute, as much as practically possible. Washing hands with emollients may not be as effective as using soap for removing the virus because virus particles could be left on the skin within the residual emollient that has not been washed away.

Frequent washing of hands with soap can, however, cause problems for people with eczema, including dry skin and hand eczema. It is very important people find ways of managing dry skin and hand eczema that may be caused or worsened by frequent washing with soap.

Strategies for this include:

  • After washing hands with soap and water, re-wash using emollient to help protect the skin.
  • Use emollients to moisturise the hands after washing and at other times during the day when the skin feels dry and sore.
  • Dry hands well after washing by gently patting them dry, not rubbing.
  • Rehydrate sore dry hands overnight, using an ointment and wearing clean cotton gloves.
  • Wear nitrile gloves if you need to handle detergents or other cleaning products that can irritate the skin. These provide a physical barrier for the skin and can be purchased from chemists or from online shops.
  • If you develop more severe hand eczema or suspect your skin is infected, you should contact your GP and may need prescription medicine to reduce the inflammation.

If you feel you need to use sanitising gel (which may irritate your eczema), apply your usual emollient afterwards to minimise any irritant effect.

In public places where you can’t avoid touching surfaces, try not to touch your nose, eyes or mouth (or your child’s) because the virus gets in through mucous membranes.

When can I see a GP or dermatologist?

Please don’t delay in getting healthcare. If you need urgent medical help and it’s not an emergency, contact your GP or NHS 111 online or telephone NHS 111 first. Your GP practice should offer online, telephone and video consultations. If you are invited in for a face-to-face appointment, infection control measures are in place to keep patients and staff safe.

The Covid-19 NICE guidance says that dermatology departments should ‘optimise the use of teledermatology, such as telephone and video consultations’. If your dermatology appointment has been cancelled due to the crisis, try to find out whether a telephone or video consultation would be possible instead.

I am shielding – for how much longer should I shield?

The shielding programme is due to be paused in England on 31 July. From this date, the government is advising people who have been shielding to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures. July 31 is also the date anticipated by Scottish and Northern Ireland governments for the pause of shielding in these nations.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has advised that shielding should continue until 16 August.

Shielding advice England

Shielding advice Wales

Shielding advice Scotland

Shielding advice Northern Ireland

For more information on the use of immunosuppressant drugs and shielding:

The British Association of Dermatologists has produced a helpful grid, which categorises people’s levels of risk and whether they should shield based on the medication they are taking and other factors. It applies to both adults and children.

Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital has produced FAQ on coronavirus and eczema, which explains in detail the difference between shielding and very careful social distancing, and provides a self-assessment risk calculator.

Am I more likely to develop Covid-19 as a result of having eczema?

There is no evidence to suggest that people with eczema are more likely to develop Covid-19 or to experience a more severe form of the condition if they do develop it.

If I have open cracks or splits in my skin, am I more likely to pick up Covid-19?

We don’t know for certain at the moment whether this is or is not the case. However, because coronavirus seems to be spread through respiratory droplets from the coughs and sneezes of an infected person that land in the mouths, noses and airways of people nearby, it seems to be unlikely that a damaged skin barrier would increase the risk of developing Covid-19.