Like face masks, there’s a lot of confusion about whether gloves effectively prevent coronavirus infections.
This is partly due to waffling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It currently doesn’t recommend wearing gloves. But at one point it did.
“As a result, there’s been some confusion,” said Dr. John Whyte. He’s an internist and chief medical officer at WebMD.
Now, when you go out, you see a lot of people wearing gloves. Doctors and nurses wear gloves when treating COVID-19 patients. And you may wonder if you should be wearing them, too.
The answer is: Probably not, but maybe.
We don’t want to add to the confusion, but whether you should wear gloves depends on what you’re doing.
Dr. Stephen Berger is a board certified infectious disease and microbiology physician. He said there’s “no evidence that gloves can protect us from acquiring COVID-19.” He pointed out that healthcare workers wear latex gloves not to protect themselves but to avoid passing infections to patients.
So if you wear gloves, you’re protecting others more than yourself. The same is true for face masks.
The coronavirus is mainly spread person to person through the air, when you’re near an infected person who expels respiratory droplets by breathing, coughing, sneezing, or talking. It’s less likely but still possible to catch the virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face.
But that can happen whether or not you’re wearing gloves.
“Touching your face and your phone with dirty gloves defeats the whole purpose,” said Dr. Whyte.
He’s also concerned that people might stop social distancing out of a false sense of security if they wear gloves. They might “go out and stay out much longer than they otherwise would have.”
Because of all this, experts are in agreement that most people don’t need gloves.
But there are exceptions.
Essential workers such as grocery store employees who are constantly touching products that others consume… It may make more sense for them to wear gloves rather than constantly having to take a break to wash their hands.
It also makes a difference if the virus is actually in your home. “People should have gloves” when dealing with “a sick family member with COVID-19,” said Dr. Shuhan He. He’s cofounder of the online network Get Us PPE.
He explained that there’s a “large difference between using (gloves)” when you go out with no clear contact with coronavirus…versus “risk when you deal directly with someone with a high chance of having the disease.”
But for most of the public, it’s a better idea to just wash your hands frequently.
Dr. Allison Weinmann is an infectious disease specialist. She suggests that if you do wear gloves, you should wash or sanitize your hands before putting them on and after removing them.
Cancer research scientist Dr. Victoria Forster has seen rubber gloves being handed out at airports. She doesn’t approve.
She said that walking around an airport “wearing the same pair of gloves for several hours, touching trolleys, escalator handles, and elevator buttons” and then touching your face “is a microbiological nightmare.” It’s “dramatically worse than not wearing gloves and washing or sanitizing your hands frequently.”
6 Steps for Wearing Gloves Properly
Dr. Forster points out that gloves, much like masks, “only work if they are appropriately worn.”
Here are six crucial points to keep in mind when wearing gloves:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before putting them on. Or you can use a hand sanitizer. Make sure it contains at least 70% alcohol.
- Choose disposable latex gloves. Any other type could absorb infected liquids.
- As with bare hands, don’t touch your face when wearing gloves.
- Remove them the proper way. Use the CDC’s step-by-step method:
- Once removed, throw gloves into the trash immediately. They should never be reused.
- Wash your hands again after taking them off.
Wearing gloves during the pandemic isn’t strictly necessary. But in certain situations, it may protect you and others.
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