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Personal Hygiene

Particularities of the skin in people with spinal cord injury (SCI)

  • The skin of the disabled body parts is more likely to dry out since the skin glands do not function properly.
  • Tetraplegics might experience vegetative perspiration (as a sign of malfunctioning of the body) since temperature regulating perspiration is not possible any more.
  • Due to the lack of sensitivity or reduced sensitivity, the risk of injury through mechanical or chemical irritation (burns, frostbites) is increased.


What needs to be considered regarding skin care?

  • Rinse off washing lotion and soap well with clear water since the skin will dry out otherwise.
  • All washing lotions degrease the skin and irritate the acid shield of the skin.
  • A pH-neutral liquid soap helps to regenerate the natural acid shield of the skin faster.
  • Body lotion should not be put on directly after washing the body but delayed.
  • Normal skin does not need lotion every day.
  • Intimate care should be performed every day. In case of a permanent catheter or fungal infection, intimate care needs to be performed twice daily (AM and PM).
  • The skin needs extra protection during the summer months – apply sun screen with a high sun protection factor.


Nail care
Careful nail care is very important. Infected or ingrown nails occur frequently in people with SCI. It is recommended to have regular pedicures done.


Skin control and relief
In order to recognize pressure sores, erythema and changes such as fungal infections at an early stage, it is important to check the skin regularly. Due to a lack of sensitivity, changes are often recognized very late. It is therefore even more important to observe carefully to be able to react quickly. For more information on how to check the skin read the chapter about “Pressure Sores/Decubitus“.

 

FAQs
Would it be better to use specific skin care products?
It is rarely necessary to use specific skin care products. When buying a body lotion, it is recommended to choose one of the more greasy ones. In case of very sensitive skin, the following washing lotions are recommended:

 

  • Lactacyd Derma
  • Pruri-med
  • Der-med

What can I do if I am perspiring profusely?
Regular personal hygiene and drying the skin properly with a towel are important. We recommend talking to your GP.

About the author:

  • Karin Gläsche is an expert in wound care and stomata in the Department for Nursing Development and Education at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil/Switzerland, where she has worked since 1999. She is co-author of the key publication in the field of spinal cord injury "Paraplegie. Ganzheitliche Rehabilitation" (eds. Guido A. Zäch & Hans Georg Koch).


updated: December 2013

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