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Healing touch: Why and how nurses should care for their hands

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Cleanliness is next to godliness, and nowhere is this more true than in the field of medicine.

According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 1.4 million cases of Healthcare Associated Infection at any given time — and that’s a conservative estimate. These include urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, bloodstream infections and a host of others. Nurses and doctors come into contact with lots of patents who may be carrying microbes without showing any symptoms.

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This is why it is of paramount importance they keep their hands clean. Medical professionals wash, scrub and disinfect their hands countless times each day. While this is critical to the health and safety of the patients in their care, it can wreak havoc on their hands. Dry, chapped and raw skin on the hands is something many nurses have to deal with.

Here are a few suggestions on how to sooth those hands after a long shift:

Lotion

This one is fairly obvious, but important all the same. It's quick, easy and effective in helping to prevent dry, chapped hands. One drawback is that some patients may have adverse reactions to some of the ingredients in certain lotions. If your hospital, office or practice doesn't provide a lotion or moisturizer to use while at work, make sure that anything brought in has been approved prior to use.

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Emollients

Emollients — creams and oils — are moisturizers that provide an extra layer of protection to the skin. These are found in a wide range of products and can add a layer of oil to the skin to slow water loss, increase its capacity to retain moisture and lubricate to reduce friction. These three functions aid the skin in repairing itself. A few examples of emollients to try are cocoa butter, shea butter and animal and plant oils such as emu, mink, aloe and lanolin, which is similar to our skin’s own natural oils. Apply a liberal amount to the hands and wrap before bed.

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Paraffin wax treatment

Paraffin is a light, solid wax used for its therapeutic as well as cosmetic benefits. It is also a natural emollient. Paraffin can be applied to the feet as well as the hands — which can be an added bonus after a 14 hour shift. Therapeutically, paraffin wax soothes sore muscles and helps alleviate joint pain, which is why it can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and other mobility issues. Cosmetically, it boosts moisture levels in the skin, helps to open pores and removes dead skin cells. It should be noted, however, that you should not use hot paraffin wax if you have any rashes or open sores, diabetes, numbness of the hands or feet, poor blood circulation or sensitive skin.

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