Does Wearing a Face Mask During the COVID-19 Pandemic Increase the Incidence of Dermatological Conditions in Health Care Workers? Narrative Literature Review

Link to article at PubMed

JMIR Dermatol. 2021 May 6;4(1):e22789. doi: 10.2196/22789. eCollection 2021 Jan-Jun.


BACKGROUND: COVID-19 is a health emergency. SARS-CoV-2 was discovered in Wuhan (Hubei Province, China) and has rapidly spread worldwide, leaving no country untouched. COVID-19 is a respiratory infection characterized by a pneumonia of unknown etiology. It is transmitted through respiratory droplets; for example: through breathing, talking, and coughing. Transmission of the virus is high. Health care workers play important roles in helping those affected by COVID-19; this could not be done without the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE involves the use of goggles, masks, gloves, and gowns and is known to reduce COVID-19 transmission; however, multiple reports of skin disease and damage associated with occupational mask-wearing have emerged.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to review the literature for newly emerging dermatological conditions as a result of occupational mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: A narrative review of new reports of dermatological conditions associated with occupational mask-wearing was carried out in May 2020 by referencing keywords including: "covid mask dermatology," "covid dermatological damage," "covid mask skin," "covid N95 mask damage," and "covid mask skin damage" from PubMed, supplemented by searches on both Google Scholar and ResearchGate. A total of 287 articles were found, of which 40 were successfully included in this study, and an additional 7 were selected from the reference lists of these 40 articles. The findings were tabulated and analyzed under the following headings: dermatological diagnosis, causes, and management.

RESULTS: Qualitative analysis of the reviewed data was carried out. A number of dermatological conditions were found to increasingly occur owing to prolonged and frequent use of face masks. Pressure-related injuries were often the most serious complaint; recommendations to reduce this type of injury include the use of hydrocolloid dressings, plastic handles, education, and regular moisturization. Innovation in PPE as well as services, such as virtual clinics, need to be advanced to protect the welfare of health care staff.

CONCLUSIONS: In these unprecedented times, PPE has been an effective barrier to the transmission of COVID-19 among health care workers. This has allowed health care workers to provide care to patients, with minimal risk. However, our findings suggest that despite the obvious benefits of using face masks to protect the respiratory system, there are also considerable health consequences to the skin. Future research studies are required to focus on improving face masks to ensure both the protection of the respiratory system as well as skin care, which, according to our study, has been overlooked.

PMID:34028470 | PMC:PMC8104277 | DOI:10.2196/22789

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