Should you wear gloves to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus?
While the virus is thought to spread mainly through respiratory droplets emitted when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, the illness may also be transmitted when people touch a contaminated surface then touch their mouth, nose or eyes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because of that risk, some people have chosen to wear gloves while shopping, at gas stations and in other public settings.
However, while the CDC recommends people wear cloth face coverings when they visit places where social distancing is difficult, the agency only recommends the general public wear gloves when cleaning or caring for someone who is sick.
“If you are not careful, gloves can spread germs rather than keep you safe,“ says Angela Harris, infection control manager for Tidelands Health. “Gloves won’t protect you from becoming ill if you touch a contaminated surface, then rub your eyes or itch your nose.”
Instead of wearing gloves while running errands or out in the community, Harris says its best to focus instead on good hand hygiene to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“As the pandemic continues, it remains important to wash your hands frequently, and to do so for at least 20 seconds,” she says. “If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.”
Here are some tips for proper glove use when cleaning or caring for someone who is ill:
Don’t touch your face
Whether wearing gloves or not, it’s a good idea to avoid touching your face, including your mouth, nose and eyes.
“If you’re wearing gloves and touch a contaminated surface and then touch your nose, eyes or mouth, you can still transmit the virus and get sick,” Harris says.
Ideally, dispose of a glove immediately in a lined trash can after touching a surface that might be contaminated.
“Contamination can spread if a person wearing gloves touches a contaminated surface and then turns around and touches something else, such as a door handle, without removing the gloves,” she notes. “If you remove the glove and wash your hands properly before touching the door handle, you’ll limit the risk of contaminating it.”
Remove gloves with caution
Take time and care when removing gloves. Avoid touching the exterior of gloves with your bare skin. When removing gloves, pinch one glove on the outside with a gloved hand, then roll the glove forward as you wriggle your hand out. Then, place the thumb of your newly uncovered hand under the edge of the other glove and peel the glove off.
“It’s important not to touch the outside of the glove with your thumb or fingers,” says Harris. “As soon as you remove the gloves, wash your hands thoroughly.”
Dispose of gloves properly
If you are going to wear gloves in public, make sure to dispose of them properly. Harris says placing used gloves in a garbage can shows respect for other people who also want to stay healthy.
“If you litter, someone else might pick up a contaminated glove and become ill,” she says. “People should be as respectful of others as they are of themselves.”
Practice social distancing
Remember that COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through droplets created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. When you are out in public, make sure to protect yourself by practicing social distancing, wearing a cloth face mask in places where social distancing is difficult and regularly washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol), among other preventive actions.