Do my dry, cracked hands increase my risk of catching Covid-19?

A pair of medical experts weigh in

27 March 2020 - 12:51 By Sanet Oberholzer
It's better apply moisturiser to the back of your hands - where your skin needs it most - than to your palms.
It's better apply moisturiser to the back of your hands - where your skin needs it most - than to your palms.
Image: 123RF/domenicogelermo

It's unlikely you've ever had cleaner hands than you do right now. But you may also find that all that washing and sanitising has caused the skin on your hands to become dry and cracked.

If you're worried about how this may affect your exposure to the coronavirus, you're not alone. Rest assured though, Dr Graham Duncombe, a qualified general practitioner and expert in the field of aesthetic medicine at the Skin Renewal Institute, says that cracked skin does not appear to put you at greater risk of being infected.

“Fortunately this virus has not been shown to be transmittable through the skin or even a wound. It requires the tissues of the respiratory system to survive and will not infect you through a skin defect,” he explains.

However, medical doctor Anastacia Tomson points out that a disruption of the skin's barrier function can render you more susceptible to eczema or skin infections.

As for remedying those dry hands, Duncombe says that it should be safe to use moisturiser. He explains that though the virus is more stable on a moist surface, there does not seem to be a clinical difference in transmission between a naturally moist hand and a hand treated with moisturiser.

Tomson recommends moisturising your hands immediately after washing them, while they're still a little damp in order to trap the moisture in.

“[Moisturiser] doesn't make the hands ‘stickier’ to viruses or pathogens, but it doesn't protect you either, so you would still need to re-wash or re-sanitise after touching contaminated surfaces,” she adds.