Adverse skin reactions to personal protective equipment against severe acute respiratory syndrome--a descriptive study in Singapore

Contact Dermatitis. 2006 Nov;55(5):291-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.2006.00953.x.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was first recognized in February 2003. It is the first severe and readily transmissible new disease to emerge in the 21st century. Healthcare workers in affected countries were exposed to the regular use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as the N95 mask, gloves, and gowns. Our aim was to study the prevalence of adverse skin reactions to PPE among healthcare workers in Singapore during the SARS outbreak. Healthcare staff in the National Skin Centre and Tan Tock Seng Hospital were surveyed using questionnaires. Of those asked to participate, 322 (94.7%) agreed. 14.3% of the respondents were doctors, 73.0% nurses, and 12.7% other ancillary staff. Mean age of respondents was 32.4 years, with the majority being women (85.7%) and Chinese (53.7%). 109 (35.5%) of the 307 staff who used masks regularly reported acne (59.6%), facial itch (51.4%), and rash (35.8%) from N95 mask use. 64 (21.4%) of the 299 who used gloves regularly reported dry skin (73.4%), itch (56.3%), and rash (37.5%). The use of PPE is associated with high rates of adverse skin reactions. There is a need to find suitable alternatives for affected staff and to encourage awareness among staff of the role of dermatologists in their care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masks / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Protective Clothing / adverse effects*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology
  • Skin Diseases / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires