A survey of occupational skin disease in UK health care workers

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Abstract

Background

Occupational skin disease is a common problem among health care workers (HCWs). The prevalence of occupational skin disease in HCWs has been reported in several international studies, but not in the UK.

Aims

To estimate the prevalence of occupational skin disease in a population of UK HCWs and to explore possible causative factors.

Methods

Clinical and non-clinical HCWs attending for an influenza vaccine during October and November 2013 were invited to complete a brief skin questionnaire. Data from staff who stated their skin had suffered as a result of work were compared with data from staff who did not, to explore differences in potential causative factors.

Results

A total of 2762 questionnaires were analysed. The estimated prevalence of occupational skin disease was 20% for clinical and 7% for non-clinical staff. In total, 424 clinical staff stated their skin had been made worse by work. There were statistically significant differences between clinical staff with and without reported skin symptoms regarding a history of eczema, frequent hand washing and moisturizer use but no statistically significant difference in the relative proportions of soap and alcohol hand gel use. Non-clinical staff reported significantly more use of soap relative to alcohol gel than clinical staff.

Conclusions

This study demonstrated the prevalence of occupational skin disease in a population of UK HCWs. More work is indicated to explore if the ratio of soap and alcohol gel reported in this study are typical and whether this has any impact on the development of occupational skin disease.

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