Skin problems after a tsunami

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2006 Aug;20(7):860-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2006.01666.x.


Background: On December 26, 2004, the biggest earthquake for 40 years, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, triggered a tsunami that pounded the coastal areas of South Asia and East Africa. The effects of the tsunami on skin conditions have not been evaluated.

Objective: To determine the influence of the tsunami on skin conditions by evaluating the skin problems of patients presenting at hospitals after the tsunami.

Methods: Between 5 and 25 January 2005, two dermatologists evaluated patients who complained of skin problems at an outpatient clinic and emergency room of a general hospital in Banda Aceh, Aceh Province, Indonesia.

Results: The total number of patients that presented during the study period was 235 (131 males and 104 females), and they had a total of 265 skin problems. In terms of age distribution, most subjects were in their fourth decade (23.0%), followed by the third (22.6%) and fifth decade (16.6%). The most prevalent skin problems were infections-infestations (32.5%), followed by eczemas (29.8%) and traumatic skin disorders (29.4%). In males, traumatic skin disorders were most common. The great majority of infection-infestation cases involved superficial fungal infections. Contact dermatitis accounted for three-quarters of eczema cases, and mainly involved the arms (40.0%) and legs (27.1%). The majority of traumatic skin disorders were lacerations, punctures and penetrations, and the feet (44.7%) and hands (18.8%) were most frequently affected.

Conclusions: Unhygienic conditions, exposure to a hazardous environment and contact with various objects during and after the tsunami probably increased the prevalence of infections-infestations, traumatic skin disorders and contact dermatitis. To prevent these problems and associated secondary bacterial infections, health-related education and early medical management are required.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dermatitis, Contact / epidemiology
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indonesia / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / injuries
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Skin Diseases / etiology