I used to think only women worried about their skin, especially when it came to dry hands. Then over the last few years I have worked with some men who have told me they worry about it too. They even ask if there is any lotion they could use. They often complained that they have cracks in their hands that are painful and irritating.
Dry skin plagues all of us, especially during the dry months of winter. Lets take a look at what we can do to help prevent this problem.
One of the first concepts we learn in any EMS class is infection control. Why is this so important?
We learned that our skin is our best defense against infection and other diseases that can be transmitted through contact with patients, either on EMS calls, or on a rescue. Of course we will wear those colorful gloves on the ambulance or during a rescue we have our fire gloves or extrication gloves, but there will be a point where you won’t have these at all times.
Our skin can only be our protection when it is free of cuts and cracks. As a firefighter our hands take a beating. As mentioned before, winter is a dry time, and this dries out the skin. We are always washing our hands throughout the day after tasks performed; whether it is after running calls, or working around the firehouse.
Hot baths and showers thought to soothe our sore muscles, dry out our skin even more. As anyone knows after sleeping in a bunkroom with poor humidity, causing our nasal passages to dry, this also dries the skin. Having to shave on a daily basis to maintain the good seal with your SCBA mask can also dry out your skin.
What Can We Do About This?
Use lotion often. The best time to do this is just after a shower or hand washing while the skin is somewhat damp. Reapply as needed.
Clean your skin with cleansers that are not harsh on the skin.
Ask if you can put a humidifier in your bunk space. This will help keep the air around you moist, lessening the chance of dry skin. If you have a common space bunk room this may be more difficult. When you are home put one in you bedroom.
Do you remember hearing, ” You are what you eat”? Try to limit foods that dehydrate the body, drink plenty of water and eat foods that hydrate the body such as fish, fruits, and lettuce/spinach/greens are a few examples.
Taking care of our first line of protection is often forgotten in our hurried days but we need to remember to do so because sometimes its all we have.