We are very proud that The Breast Place has been a trusted breast health resource in our community. During this challenging time, we are putting your safety and wellness as well as that of our patient care team first. That being said, we thought a few helpful hints along the way would continue to bring our community together during this time of social distancing.
A patient asked this morning how to address the red patches and eczema inflamed on her skin with all the handwashing. Then one of our team members showed her blotchy, cracked hands as an example.
So what do we do when we have to wash our hands over and over and/or apply sanitizer again and again?
When you are washing your hands to avoid a disease, the last thing you want is to make them so raw that that there is breakage in the skin so that a bacterial or fungal infection develops. Cracks that form on skin can increase your risk of contracting infections through the fissures and also lead to conditions such as eczema.
We cannot stop washing our hands (health professionals are doing it up to 100 times a day) and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people should scrub their hands for at least 20 seconds. Don’t you remember your kindergarten teacher telling you to sing a full rendition of Happy Birthday while washing, to get through the 20 seconds? Those rules still apply today!
Here are some helpful hints to care for your skin after washing your hands:
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which kill the microbes on skin without removing any debris, irritate hands less than soap. We suggest using hand sanitizers when it makes the most sense, like after touching a door handle or another surface that might carry germs, instead of repeatedly washing your hands. However, keep in mind that sanitizer kills 6%0 of what soap kills, including surface debris. It does not replace washing your hands correctly.
Take preventative measures to moisturize your hands after washing them will help. Hand soap should also gentle and fragrance-free – remember, you are not washing dishes!
Once you’ve washed your hands for at least 20 seconds (Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you…you know the drill!), pat them dry rather than rubbing them. Leave just a small amount of dampness and then moisturize to lock in the water.
Immediately use a hand cream to seal in the moisture. Among the many kinds of moisturizers, hand creams are better than body lotion because they are more nourishing. Body lotions, which are primarily water-based, can further dry out skin because the water evaporates while creams, which are often oil-based, will begin moisturizing and protecting washed hands.
We recommend applying thick hand creams at nighttime to give your skin a rest. Put on a pair of cotton gloves or even socks!! For a few hours before bed, or even overnight, you will hydrate and replenish the skin, gearing up to fight the COVID-19 another day.
*Remember, if your skin is sensitive to harsh chemicals, you should handle cleaning supplies like Clorox wipes while wearing gloves.
Now more than ever, keeping your immune system strong is a necessity. For a breast cancer patient and during your treatments, this can be a very difficult task. How does breast cancer attack your immune system, how do treatments keep it weak, and what can you do to improve its strength and your quality of life?
Having cancer gives your life, and the lives you affect, a very unknown and sometimes scary feeling about what could or couldn't happen almost every day. Cancer treatments are changing every day, how your body responds to your treatments changes every day, and how you feel changes every day. The world today is starting to fill up with daily unknowns, uncertainties, and fear. What can happen, what could happen, and what is already happening is frightening. It is especially very frightening for people with compromised immune systems. Who has some of the most compromised immune systems? You do, my dear friend, as I am sure you have already been told many times before. Your body is already working against you as your cancer sets in, and then your immune system is completely compromised once you begin treatments. How unfair is that? In your daily battle, that is one of the most heartbreaking things we see every day.
But where is the science behind all of it? Cancer cells can sneak past your immune system and the white blood cells used to attack invaders in our bodies because they can look so similar to our normal healthy cells. It's almost like a game of hide and seek inside your body. Some cancer cells can even turn off part of your immune system once they attack, allowing the cancer cells to grow and multiply without being stopped. Cancer can also weaken your immune system if it travels and makes its way inside of your bone marrow. Inside your bone marrow is where your white blood cells are produced and cancer can shut down that production stripping your immune system of its power. But it's not just the disease itself that can lead to your immune system becoming weak, so can your treatments. These life-saving treatments that are needed to destroy the cancer cells can leave your body's immune system weak and not ready to fight. But they are still so important when it comes to saving your life.
Chemotherapy is the leading cause of damage to your immune system, but radiation and surgery can harm it as well. Chemotherapy is designed to kill rapid growth cells, which cancer is. But other rapidly growing cells are found in the most delicate parts of our body like in your bone marrow, blood, hair, and others. This will hurt the production of white blood cells, making your body more vulnerable to infection, sickness, and other issues.
During your cancer treatments and in the state of the world now, keeping your immune system as healthy as possible needs to become one of your top priorities. With that in mind, what can you do to keep yourself healthy and happy, while building up your immune system to whatever dangers are lurking out there? Follow these tips and suggestions to help you in your continued battle day in and day out!
You are fighting a battle inside your body and waging a war on the outside to keep yourself healthy and strong. Now more than ever it is so important to focus on keeping your immune system strong and to be as mindful as possible. It might be hard to not visit or see some of your family or friends to keep yourself healthy, avoiding public gatherings, and avoiding doing things you love doing. But, making these decisions could save your life and keep you healthy. Think smart and stay healthy, it will all be worth the trouble you are going through in the end.