May 21, 2020 — 3 p.m. EST
Wearing masks is now our new normal. In fact, some experts are predicting that we will be wearing masks for at least a year. We wear masks when grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, and even sometimes while running (which you actually might not have to do FYI). With the emphasis on masks reaching a fever pitch recently, some people have taken personal protection a step further by wearing gloves to do these same activities. But while we all understand the importance of masks, gloves can be a little more complicated. Should you be wearing gloves for daily tasks?
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The answer is no. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing gloves only when you’re cleaning or caring for someone who is sick. It goes on to expressly state gloves are not necessary in other situations, such as running errands. Furthermore, it states that wearing gloves in these situations will not protect you from germs AND may still lead to the spread of germs. This may sound a little counter intuitive, but here’s why:
Gloves do not kill germs on contact. So, they work just as well as your hands to transmit germs from one place to the next. Meaning, if you wear them to use the ATM, keep them on to go grocery shopping, and then get into your car, you’ve just spread the ATM germs to all of these places. Recently, nurse Molly Lixey’s video went viral demonstrating this idea of cross contamination and how easily germs can be spread by those wearing gloves. In addition, wearing gloves might give you a false sense of security. You may think the gloves are protecting you and be more lax about important preventative measures such as washing your hands or avoiding touching your face.
What If I Wear Gloves Once & Throw Them Away?
Even if you only wear gloves for one specific task and then discard them, you could still be unknowingly contaminating yourself. Here’s the thing about gloves: even medical professionals sometimes have trouble removing and discarding them. According to a 2019 study from the American Journal of Infection Control, in simulations of contaminated glove removal, 37% of health care personnel contaminated their skin when using their typical way of glove removal. While this percent did go down when using the technique recommended by the CDC, the point remains that these are healthcare professionals who put on and take off gloves daily and they still struggle. It’s harder than it seems to take off a glove and not infect yourself.
If the reason you use disposable gloves is because you run multiple errands at a time and don’t have access to wash your hands right away, make sure you have hand sanitizer handy. This way, when you leave the grocery store you can sanitizer your hands before moving on to the pharmacy. Use hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol and wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you return home.
If You Still Choose to Wear Gloves, Here’s How to Remove Them Correctly
The CDC does have a set of instructions (with pictures) explaining how to remove gloves properly. You will notice that the last step of these instructions reads: “Clean your hands immediately after removing gloves.” This demonstrates the point that the best way to kill the coronavirus is to wash your hands. The CDC recommends “washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol) at key times.”
These “key times,” according to the CDC include before, during, and after preparing food; after using the toilet; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, etc. You should still be doing this even when wearing gloves, and you should be changing your gloves every time you wash your hands. Please don’t wear the same pair around town; you’re just spreading germs from place to place.
All this being said, it’s probably best not to wear gloves unless you fall in one of the categories listed above where the CDC actually recommends it. And for all you glove-wearing runners out there, you definitely don’t need to. Aren’t your hands getting sweaty?