As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, so do tips and advice on how you can protect yourself. Plus with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommending face masks during essential trips (like going to the grocery store or pharmacy), you might be wondering if wearing gloves is a logical precaution.
“We’re seeing a lot of people out in public wearing gloves, which isn’t wrong so to say,” says infectious disease specialist Patricia Dandache, MD. “But unfortunately most people aren’t wearing or disposing of their gloves correctly, which defeats the whole purpose.”
There are many factors that play into why gloves aren’t always an effective protection measure outside of direct patient care. There could be a tear or rip in the gloves, you could put them on or take them off incorrectly, but most importantly, the gloves could give you a false sense of security – and you end up touching everything you please, including your face, leading to self-contamination.
The glove itself is only good protection if the person wearing it follows good protective measures, but unfortunately most people will not.
Instead, Dr. Dandache recommends that your best bet is to go to the store without gloves and follow these steps:
- Do not touch your face.
- Do not touch your phone.
- Practice social distancing while in the store. (Stay at least six feet away from others at all times.)
- Limit the items or surfaces that you need to touch. (Now isn’t the time to scavenge through the entire apple pile.)
- Wear a face mask – and do not touch the mask once it’s on your face.
- Sanitize your hands (if possible) when you transition to your car and immediately wash your hands when you get home after unloading.
“Social distancing, not touching your face, sanitizing your hands after you’re done shopping, followed by washing your hands is a reasonable approach to avoid acquiring the virus in the store,” explains Dr. Dandache.
Gloves do not give you immunity nor permission to touch everything within reach either. Any germs that might be on your gloves can be transferred to all other surfaces and items you touch. This is why it’s counterproductive to wear gloves, yet continue to rummage through your purse or text on your phone while in the store.
The coronavirus can enter your body through mucous membranes, like in your nose and mouth. It does not enter your body through your hands, but the hands can transport the viral particles to the mucus membranes. There’s even the possibility that the virus could stick to the latex in gloves better than it could adhere to your own skin.
Still, for those who swear by gloves, it’s important to avoid cross-contamination when wearing them, otherwise they offer you no protection. It’s also critical to follow the CDC’s recommendation on how to correctly remove them.
“Many people don’t take off their gloves the right way, further contaminating themselves and others around them,” says Dr. Dandache. “And you should never, ever reuse gloves.”
In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s a quick recap of how to safely remove your gloves:
- Grasp the outside of one glove at the wrist, but be careful not touch your skin.
- Peel the glove away from your body, pulling it inside out.
- Hold the glove you just removed in your other gloved hand.
- Peel off the second glove by putting your fingers inside the glove at the top of your wrist.
- Turn the second glove inside out while pulling it away from your body, leaving the first glove inside the second.
- Throw the gloves into the trash immediately. (Don’t leave them in the store parking lot outside of your vehicle or try to reuse them later.)
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer directly after you’ve removed the gloves.