Information, guidance, and suggestions from health experts are changing every single day during the pandemic of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The one constant advice from health professionals and experts is the importance of protecting yourself and everyone around you to help flatten the curve of infections.
During the early days of the pandemic, experts concluded that only essential health workers such as doctors and nurses needed to wear masks. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommended that those who were sick or caring for someone who was sick also needed to wear a mask. As more research has occurred, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines for masks to recommend that anyone going out in public cover their face with a cloth mask. It has been stressed that the general public should not use medical-grade masks because there are shortages right now.
There has been a lot of misinformation when it comes to the novel coronavirus. Some people are wearing gloves and others are not. “Gloves are not recommended for the general public,” says Kathleen Winston, dean of nursing at the University of Phoenix. She explains that this reduces the supplies available for health care professionals. Gloves do not prevent COVID-19 from the general public.
Gloves should be used by caregivers that are working with sick patients or bodily fluids. But again, it is very important to not take gloves away from health care workers. Gloves are an essential element of PPE (personal protective equipment) and they should be prioritized for health care workers.
5. Types of Gloves
Not all gloves are created equal. There are three types of medical gloves: medical grade, surgical, and examination. Gloves are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to achieve standards for tear and leak resistance and biocompatibility. Non-medical gloves, such as rubber gloves, do not protect against the virus.
“Cloth or other porous fabric gloves would not be protective. Latex, nitrile, and vinyl gloves have all been used,” explains Cynthia Weston, associate dean for clinical and outreach affairs at the College of Nursing at Texas A&M University.
Nitrile gloves are stronger and longer-lasting than latex. They are also the best option for people with allergies.
You should not have a feeling of gloves automatically keeping you safe. “The issue with gloves can be a false sense of protection when someone continues to touch their face or other objects, spreading contamination,” Weston states. Just because you are wearing gloves does not mean you are staying safe from COVID-19. This is true especially if you are constantly touching your face or using objects such as your cell phone.
4. Touching Surfaces
The World Health Organization states that it is not only your face that you need to avoid touching, as surfaces can also be contaminated with the virus. Surfaces that are constantly touched need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
Studies conducted on SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV showed that the virus can linger on different surfaces for hours to days. This depends on factors such as light, humidity, and temperature. It is still not known if environmental contamination can lead to infection with COVID-19.
The WHO published a protocol “to determine viable virus presence and persistence on surfaces in various locations where a COVID-19 patient is receiving care or isolated.” They add, “more investigations and analysis of the epidemiological data is still required to understand the full extent of the transmission.”
Without knowing if touching items can lead to transmission or not, it is best to assume that everyday surfaces can be contaminated with the virus for up to a few days.
3. Tossing and Reusing Gloves
If you do wear gloves, and you do not throw them away after every use, you can potentially cause cross-contamination. Gloves are not meant to be reused. They can contaminate other objects, surfaces, and even yourself.
Gloves are meant to be disposable. I is not recommended to sanitize gloves and keep using them.
The single most important way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is by washing your hands for 20 seconds with warm and soapy water. Hands should be washed before and after gloves are put on your hands.
2. Do Not Use Hand Sanitizer on Gloves
If you are wearing your gloves out in public and use the restroom, should you wash the gloves? Or maybe apply hand sanitizer? Winston states that you should absolutely not “share, wash or disinfect gloves”.
Gloves are meant to be disposable. Using hand sanitizer on gloves could cause the glove to tear or rip, which could allow the virus to reach your skin. Unless the gloves are specifically designed to be sanitized, only use them once.
Double gloving is a great idea. Wear two pairs of gloves, and peel off the top layer to reveal a new pair underneath. This is better than reusing gloves.
1. Proper Glove Use and Disposal
Wearing gloves improperly is more dangerous than not wearing gloves because it might give you a false sense of protection, and you may not wash your hands as often as you would without gloves. There are some important steps to take to use gloves safely:
- Always wash your hands before you put new gloves on.
- Make sure the gloves fit properly. Sharp objects can puncture gloves easily if the gloves are not properly fitted.
- Change the gloves anytime there is a tear or rip.
- Remove the gloves from wrist to finger.
- Dispose of the glove immediately.
- Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Gloves should always be worn when you will be coming in contact with any bodily fluids. Gloves should be the last item put on and the first item removed. Any objects that you touched with your gloves should be disinfected.
If you go grocery shopping with your gloves on, you should take the gloves off before you enter your car.
Regardless of where you are going, for the general public, it is recommended to not wear gloves. Instead, the priority should be focused on washing your hands and not touching your face.
If you are insistent on wearing gloves, do not touch your face while wearing the gloves. And make sure to always wash your hands before and after using the gloves.
The bottom line: gloves are not needed for the general public. Hand washing is the most critical defense against the novel coronavirus.