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To wear gloves or not to wear gloves is a question that people are asking pretty frequently these days. Unfortunately, with so much conflicting information being shared online and on social media platforms, it’s hard to know what information is accurate.
Regardless of which camp you’re in, understanding the bigger picture of wearing gloves is really important. To find out more about gloves and to learn a few things you might not have considered, keep reading!
In order to select the right type of glove for your needs, you’ll first need to understand the three basic materials most disposable gloves are constructed from.
Here’s a handy chart that provides a more detailed comparison.
While gloves can certainly place a temporary barrier between the hands any anything they touch, unless they are chosen properly, worn properly and disposed of properly, they will potentially add to the spread of germs rather than preventing it.
If you touch something that’s been contaminated, the contamination is transferred onto the gloves—just like it would be with your hands. Everything else you touch will transfer the contamination on your gloves to those items.
When it’s time to remove the contaminated gloves, you have to do so without allowing the contamination on the gloves to touch your skin—which isn’t easy to do, especially if the gloves you’re wearing don’t have some stretch.
In addition, contaminated gloves must be disposed of. Aside from the environmental issues that disposing of items made from plastics cause, placing contaminated gloves into a general trashcan creates an exposure hazard for anyone else who uses that trash can. (This is why in medical settings there are specific containers for soiled gloves.)
Finally, wearing gloves doesn’t remove the necessity of washing your hands after removing them. To try and illustrate how difficult it is to really contain contaminants and to show just how easy it is to transfer contaminants while wearing gloves, let’s look at a scenario.
Here’s a scenario:
Think about the last time you went shopping. You put on your gloves and mask and head into the store. The first thing you might touch is your car door. When you get to the store entrance, if there’s not an automatic door, you may have to touch a door handle (which has been touched by every person who has entered the store). After that, you grab a cart or a basket (which again, has been touched by every person who has used or handled that cart.) As you make your way through the aisles, you randomly touch items as you shop and by doing so, not only are you transferring germs from your gloves onto those items, but you’re also transferring any germs from those items back onto your gloves and to the cart or basket.
In addition, because it’s normal human nature, you’ve most likely touched your hair, eyes, glasses, clothing and face mask a few times, probably without even realizing it.
When it’s time to pay for the items you’ve selected, you put the items onto the counter or conveyor (which has been contaminated by every other person who has placed their contaminated items onto that conveyor or counter). You notice that the cashier is also wearing gloves and as he or she touches each item to ring it up, he or she is transferring any contaminants from the previous person’s items to the ones you’re buying and in return, is picking up new contaminants from your items.
When it’s time to pay for the items, you grab for a wallet either in your own back pocket or in your purse which transfers what’s on your hands to those items and everything inside of them. You pull out a credit or debit card and put it into the credit card machine at the end of the counter and begin to punch in your PIN number on a machine that’s been used by every person before you that day.
You take your bags and exit the store, going through the same set of doors that you may have had to touch previously. Once at your car, you either open the trunk or one of the other doors and put your bags inside, contaminating everything in your car. Then you remove your gloves to dispose of them later.
Once you get home, you take the soiled gloves and put them into the trash (contaminating your hands) and then you carry your bags into your home, placing them onto a counter (contaminating your counter). As you remove the contents of the bags, you’re transferring anything from the gloves you just threw away to your hands and anything from the items you purchased to your hands and to anything they touch in your home.
This may seem like an extreme scenario, but in reality, nothing in the scenario is too far removed from what we do in real life, is it? At this point, you might be asking why anyone would wear gloves! Luckily, the CDC has created a set of guidelines for glove use.
According to the CDC, gloves should be worn when your hands are coming into contact with cleaning chemicals while routinely cleaning and disinfecting your home and when caring for someone who is sick to include handling cleanups of bodily fluids and handling any items they may have contaminated.
The CDC goes on to say that wearing gloves while doing most other tasks outside the home such as shopping or using an ATM won’t necessarily protect someone from getting COVID-19 and may still lead to the spread of germs. If you do have to run errands and put your hands into contact with publicly used items, their best advice is to use a hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol content) and when soap and water become available, properly wash your hands.
If you’re going to wear gloves, putting them on properly is the easy part. Removing them, however, proves to be a bit trickier. The goal of removing disposable gloves is to keep whatever contaminants are on the gloves, off your skin.
The easiest way to do this is to do the following:
For detailed steps on removing gloves, the CDC has put together an infographic showing how to do that.
Looking for additional resources to help navigate you through the Coronavirus pandemic? Then check out our blog for more useful tips, like this post on health and safety during the pandemic.
Katy Lyden is a EHS Domain Analyst and Subject Matter Expert for StarTex Software, the company behind EHS Insight. Prior to her current role, Katy spent 17 years successfully leading EHS programs for several large companies within the manufacturing industry. Katy is a Navy veteran, Licensed Emergency Medical...
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