In recent times, the use of a PPE kit is of utmost importance, specifically for healthcare workers. Most healthcare workers are required to use these kits for extended periods to protect themselves from the ongoing infection.
However, extended PPE use can cause friction and shear injuries to the skin. These injuries can be reduced by lubricants, which workers are advised to apply every half hour which is an impractical approach as they may be exposed to the virus. Researchers have investigated which products create the longest-lasting protective layer between PPE and skin. They state that non-absorptive creams like coconut oil-cocoa butter beeswax mixtures, and powders like talcum powder, are most likely to provide PPE wearers with long-lasting skin protection.
To identify the best-performing lubricants, the researchers custom-built a tribometer — an instrument that assesses friction between two surfaces — and used it to test the friction between skin and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)- a common component of PPE. Commercially available products were tested on the tribometer and initially reduced friction by 20% but some silicone-based and water-and-glycerin-based lubricants increased friction levels over time by up to 29% compared to dry skin.
However, it was found that talcum powder reduced friction by 49% on application and 59% at four hours. While commercially available products comprising coconut oil, cocoa butter, and beeswax reduced friction by 31% on application and 53% at four hours. A mixture of petrolatum and lanolin reduced friction by 30% throughout the testing. When testing commercial moisturizers, it was found that friction on the application was low, but increased drastically within ten minutes of application. This happens due to the active ingredient known as humectants; attracts water like magnets from the lower layers of skin to the upper ones, leaving it soft, unlubricated, and breakable.
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