Risk level

A diet of wet hands and juicy raw materials

As a chef, you will be working creatively with meat, fish and vegetables - a diverse and stressful job. Frequent handwashing and contact with strong substances in foods mean that some chefs suffer from eczema or allergy. If you have had these problems previously, it may be wise to think twice before you go down this particular route.

What are the risks?

Chefs switch from one job to another and handle many different foods during the day. As such, they wash their hands frequently, which can dry out the skin and make it sensitive to irritants. Meat, fish and other foods also contain substances that you can develop allergies to. If you're unlucky, you might end up with itchy hand eczema.

Eczema often becomes infected and, if this happens, you will not be allowed to work, as you could infect diners with bacteria from your infection.

Prevention and avoidance

It's hard to avoid wet hands and strong foods if you work as a chef - they're part of the job. Gloves can offer protection against the worst problems, but sometimes they just get in the way. Rubbing hand cream into your hands during rests and at the beginning and end of the working day is an effective and easy way of protecting the skin from drying out and from eczema.

If you suffer from eczema or did so when you were little (atopic eczema), think twice before deciding to become a chef. It's not that unusual for chefs to be forced to change job if they have problems with eczema.

Want to know more?

If you are thinking about becoming a chef but are wondering about the risk of allergy and eczema, get in touch with your school healthcare service or careers advisor.