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

Last updated 12.11

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 100% organic cotton face masks.
  • PeopleTree sells 100% 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.
  • Spirit of Nature sells 100% cotton face masks.
  • 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. Organic cotton face masks are also available from Seasalt.
  • 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 severe facial eczema that is made worse by wearing a face covering, the Government has exemption badges and cards on its website that you can print out.

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. Soap is considered to be more effective than emollient at breaking the lipid envelope surrounding coronavirus particles, and removing the virus from the skin.

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. When drying your hands, take special care between the fingers where the skin is more prone to dryness and cracking, and build-up of soap residue.
  • 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.

What are the most eczema-friendly soaps?

We asked our followers on our social media channels which soaps they would recommend. Not all products will suit everyone, but people with eczema have said the following brands/products have worked well for them:

We don’t recommend applying olive oil to the skin as it can damage the skin barrier, but olive oil soaps seem to be well-tolerated by many people with eczema who responded to our request for soap recommendations.

How 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.

What is the current advice regarding shielding?

During the current lockdown in England (5 November to 2 December), people who have been identified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ have been advised (as of 11 November) to stay at home as much as possible, to keep all contact with other people to a minimum and to work from home. For more information, please see this page: Shielding advice England

In Wales, ‘extremely vulnerable’ people have been advised to follow the same rules as the rest of the population in Wales, but also take extra precautions. More details here: Shielding advice Wales

In Scotland, people who have been shielding have been advised to follow the same advice as everyone else in Scotland. More details here: Shielding advice Scotland

In Northern Ireland, shielding for ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ people has been paused since 31 July. People in this category have been advised to be particularly careful in following the advice on limiting household contacts, keeping social distance, hand washing and wearing a face covering. More details here: Shielding advice Northern Ireland

For more information about systemic treatments for eczema and Covid-19 risk, please see the British Association of Dermatologists’ Risk Stratification Grid. Be aware that this is out of date in that it mentions shielding, but it gives more information about Covid-19 risk relating to systemic treatments and other factors.

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.