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By Jenna Walter
Safety accessories are starting to vanish as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out. During March of last year, supermarkets and local grocery stores were stocked with gloves available for shoppers to purchase and to wear for free as they completed their shopping trips. Everyone thought that touching food and surfaces in general were major COVID risks. Since then, we’ve learned how ineffective wearing gloves are against the spread of the virus. We know better now that gloved hands can still transmit the virus as contaminates cling to the glove material. The best thing we can do is wash our hands consistently and do our best to avoid touching our faces. So how do vinyl gloves fall into this mess and why are these gloves, the ones worth keeping around any longer? Here’s the inside scoop.
When Cleaning Your Home
When it comes to cleaning your home, the rules are different. You can reuse your disposable gloves or swap them out for a fresher pair as you disinfect surfaces. Keep your rooms well-ventilated. You should keep the windows open or circulate the air in the room you’re cleaning by turning on a fan. Again, you want to wash your hands after removing your gloves. The rules are more flexible in your own home because you’re not likely to be exposed to others’ droplets or any other foreign germs and bacteria. This is why reusing the gloves is okay on occasion. You never want to reuse a pair of gloves after coming in contact with bodily fluids such as when you are caring for someone who is sick.
Wear Vinyl Gloves When Caring for Others
While hand washing is obviously number one, wearing a vinyl glove can still offer a safety measure on a temporary level. You want to wear vinyl gloves when you are cleaning or caring for a person who is sick. Your vinyl gloves should still be discarded immediately after use. Be sure to throw out your used disposable gloves in a lined trash can and never reuse the same pair of gloves. Lastly, remember to wash your hands after removing your gloves. Germs and bacteria can still seep through the microscopic pinholes found in vinyl material, so you always want to wash your hands following glove use.
In Medical Settings
Even though gloves in general are no longer considered a vital safety measure for the general public, there are still situations where, relying specifically on vinyl gloves provides safety in the medical setting. These circumstances include transporting patients, valet parking, guest services, and EVS. For these low-risk tasks, vinyl gloves are able to provide barrier protection from the virus and are more comfortable to wear when completing these tasks. That being said, high risk tasks such as starting IVs, should rely on nitrile gloves for their ability to resist chemical exposures and puncture wounds.
Sanitize Before Glove Use
In addition to washing hands, researchers have begun to emphasize the importance of sanitizing surfaces. Whether or not you choose to wear gloves, the contamination that appears on hands and gloves comes from touching contaminated surfaces. So, by taking active measures to constantly sanitize surfaces, there is reduced risk of picking up contaminates from surfaces with gloves or hands.
Technology Has Alternatives
Medical staff are introducing contactless ways for patient-sign in such as downloading patient apps. There is no longer a need for a sign-in sheet or to sanitize pens when contact is avoided altogether. We can see that wearing gloves has become far less essential as our knowledge of how germs and viruses spread grows. There are exceptions to these rules, depending on location and the guidelines that pertain to different areas. For example, in Dubai, it is expected that the public wear face masks and gloves when running errands. Glove manufacturing is still growing rapidly across the world, with China increasing its glove production capacities across factories. Other contacts methods are beginning to surface in hospitals and medical settings with advanced technology. For instance, one 3D printing company with a medical device called the Distancer makes it possible for health workers to walk through the hospital without touching surfaces or doorknobs directly. The Distancer hooks on to handles so that the person can get through without touching anything.
In Food Industry Work
Vinyl gloves are still considered an essential safety measure in the food industry. Rather than to protect the worker, wearing vinyl gloves in this context is for the purpose of preventing cross-contamination. In this setting, single-use glove wear is required, emphasizing the importance of disposing your gloves after short-term use. This is emphasized in the food industry when touching foods that need no further cooking such as herbs and toppings. Foods with no further cooking are not to be touched with bare hands and all glove wearing must follow thorough handwashing.
During Quick Home Tasks
If you are nervous about touching doorknobs and locks that you feel may have come in contact with contaminants from your brief shopping trips, this is a situation where putting on a glove is an effective safety measure. You can put on a fresh pair and then immediately discard them without touching anything else after you’ve opened or closed whatever you were afraid of touching directly. Remember to wash your hands afterwards and beforehand as well, if possible. At the very least, always keep some hand sanitizer with you to put on before applying gloves.
The Bottom Line
Wearing gloves is for the most part, not a recommended safety measure to take against COVID-19. While there are a few exceptions to this general knowledge, the majority of glove-wearing in ways that are effective are confined to hospital tasks and caring for those who are sick. If you do your part by washing your hands regularly and keeping some sanitizer with you, you are on a safer road to protecting yourself than you would be by wearing gloves as a protective mechanism.