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Viral and bacterial infections acquired via skin and mucous membranes

 

All those who comply with the corona virus (SARS-CoV-2) recommendations published by the German Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesgesundheitsministerium - BGM) on the website www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/coronavirus.html are well on the way to protecting themselves against the infection.

Since the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract (nose, lungs) and the skin barrier are the gateways of the pathogens, also additional precautionary measures should be taken besides the standard recommendations:

  • Frequent hand washing including disinfecting routines, e.g. with preparations high in alcohol content, can trigger skin barrier damages that should be compensated by applying effective skin care- and skin protection creams, as the skin otherwise becomes cracked and hence permeable for germs and other microorganisms - cf. the occupational skin protection plans claimed by occupational insurance associations.
  • Skin contacts (handshakes etc.) should generally be avoided.
  • Maximum possible distance when coughing or sneezing into elbows or handkerchiefs is an excellent precautionary measure.
  • Shallow breathing against the wind direction and shortly holding one's breath are beneficial if the person opposite is coughing or sneezing.

One of the main criteria of all the precautionary measures often is neglected or not addressed at all: depending on the external temperature, the air humidity in the interiors of houses usually is rather low in winter, be it private or public buildings or shopping malls. That is why barrier disorder problems such as neurodermatitis, but also inflammatory irritations of the respiratory system leap in the cold season - an ideal precondition for flu and similar diseases.

Just to mention an example: With an external temperature of 0°C and an external atmospheric humidity of 100%, the interior humidity is around 50% when heating up to 10°C while it is reduced to 25% when heating up to 20°C. Humidity rates at higher temperatures still are lower and higher temperatures in interiors are commonly found. The transepidermal water loss (TEWL) of the skin and the dehydration rate of the nasal mucous membranes are exponentially rising. The risk of infections is increasing to the same extent since the permeability rate of skin and mucous membranes for viral and bacterial pathogens is increased.

Consequently, one of the most effective precautionary measures in winter is lowering the room temperatures and wearing warm clothing instead of T-shirts or blouses. On top of this, it saves both money and environment!

When the external temperature rises in spring and summer, also the air humidity rate in interior rooms is increasing. The permeability of skin and mucous membranes returns to normal. Infection rates for flu & Co. come to a halt. Prerequisite: A certain part of the population has been immunised before. However that is not case with the new SARS-CoV-2.

Dr. Hans Lautenschläger

Please note: The contribution is based on the state of the art at the revision date.

 
 
 
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Revision: 22.03.2020