How the coronavirus affects the skin

Some recent scientific studies describe how the coronavirus affects the skin, both directly and by protective measures. We explain what these symptoms are and how they are identified.

COVID-19 disease causes respiratory symptoms as the main sign . However, there are also records of how the coronavirus affects the skin and other organs and systems of our body.

Recall that the triad of classic symptoms in SARS-CoV-2 infection is made up of fever, cough, and decay , which can evolve from shortness of breath. Loss of smell and eye redness have also been reported in some patients.

The catalog of symptoms of this pandemic has been under discussion since its inception . Health professionals sometimes warn of an associated sign, but medical associations do not incorporate it into protocols. Or on the contrary, a medical association releases a statement requesting that patients be reviewed according to new criteria and the World Health Organization rejects it.

This contradictory situation is typical of a developing pandemic. We still do not know the final scope of COVID-19 , nor do we know if there will be reinfections or new waves of contagion, as is already speculated in China, which was lifting the most rigid quarantines.

Thus, we come to the dermatological issue linked to SARS-CoV-2, where there are two aspects to consider: the direct symptoms on how the coronavirus affects the skin and the consequences on the skin caused by quarantine. Let’s look at each one.

Does the coronavirus affect the skin?

Dermatologists around the world agree that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not dermatotropic . This word means that the coronavirus does not affect the skin directly , that is, it does not settle in the dermal cells.

However, a letter to the editor of the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology by an Italian dermatologist reports skin symptoms among patients hospitalized for COVID-19 . According to the cited letter, 20% of the patients reviewed by this professional had any of the following symptoms:

  • Erythematous rash.
  • Urticaria.
  • Vesicles.

These skin lesions appeared during or after hospitalization , but were unrelated to the severity of the infection. That is, the coronavirus could have affected the skin of these people without meaning a worse or a better prognosis in them.

The warning from this Italian professional is about the protection that would be necessary to avoid contagion. While stressing that the proven transmission is through respiratory droplets, he urges the use of physical barriers to be reinforced so as not to come into contact with these possible associated injuries .

Skin conditions due to quarantine

The coronavirus not only causes problems for the infection itself, but also for the isolation imposed. Quarantine carries its own disorders that depend on confinement, the use of cleaning products and lack of exposure to sunlight.

We could say that the coronavirus affects the skin indirectly in these cases. Dermatitis has been reported due to excessive hand washing and the improper use of alcohol gel , as well as pressure ulcers due to remaining in the same position for a long time.

Eczema on the hands from cleaning products is not new. Chemical irritation dermatitis has always existed. The current problem is an exacerbation in the use of these products. Some people have become obsessed with hand washing and use inadequate amounts of disinfectant products .

To this we must add the little sun exposure due to quarantine . By staying indoors for so long, without being able to catch UV rays in sufficient quantity, we decrease our production of vitamin D.

Vitamin D plays a key role in skin health. It is protective of dermal cells and their metabolism. Therefore, it is recommended that citizens who can, expose themselves to sunlight  through windows or in the patio of the houses, even if it is a few minutes a day.

The skin of healthcare personnel

Another important point about how the coronavirus affects the skin, has as its protagonist the health personnel . Due to the protective equipment that doctors and nurses must use, their skins suffer.

The personal protection systems recommended in the protocols involve gloves, masks and caps. This can be associated with dermatitis and eczema on the hands and face . Also, the scalp can get sick with folliculitis and seborrheic dermatitis.

It is important that healthcare personnel follow a skin care routine once protective equipment is removed. Hands should be washed properly to remove substances from gloves and clear of latex. A full shower would be appropriate.

The use of moisturizers could also help to protect the skin , but sanitarians are not used to using them. According to the studies cited above, only 22% of doctors and nurses put these creams on at the end of the day.

Coronavirus affects the skin and affects our habits

Directly or indirectly, the coronavirus affects human skin . Perhaps it is an infectious effect on the cells themselves, but more likely it is an effect derived from protective measures. It is clear that COVID-19 changed our habits, and it would be important that good customs can be maintained.

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