Skin problems after a tsunami

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On December 26, 2004, the biggest earthquake for 40 years, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, triggered a tsunami that pounded the coastal areas of South Asia and East Africa. The effects of the tsunami on skin conditions have not been evaluated.


To determine the influence of the tsunami on skin conditions by evaluating the skin problems of patients presenting at hospitals after the tsunami.


Between 5 and 25 January 2005, two dermatologists evaluated patients who complained of skin problems at an outpatient clinic and emergency room of a general hospital in Banda Aceh, Aceh Province, Indonesia.


The total number of patients that presented during the study period was 235 (131 males and 104 females), and they had a total of 265 skin problems. In terms of age distribution, most subjects were in their fourth decade (23.0%), followed by the third (22.6%) and fifth decade (16.6%). The most prevalent skin problems were infections–infestations (32.5%), followed by eczemas (29.8%) and traumatic skin disorders (29.4%). In males, traumatic skin disorders were most common. The great majority of infection–infestation cases involved superficial fungal infections. Contact dermatitis accounted for three-quarters of eczema cases, and mainly involved the arms (40.0%) and legs (27.1%). The majority of traumatic skin disorders were lacerations, punctures and penetrations, and the feet (44.7%) and hands (18.8%) were most frequently affected.


Unhygienic conditions, exposure to a hazardous environment and contact with various objects during and after the tsunami probably increased the prevalence of infections–infestations, traumatic skin disorders and contact dermatitis. To prevent these problems and associated secondary bacterial infections, health-related education and early medical management are required.

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