As I entered the store, the first thing I did is sanitizing my entire cart down. Then, I used hand sanitizer before entering the store. As I travelled through the store, I was observing and thinking about all the people wearing gloves. Most people were touching products, some people were touching their faces, other people were touching their phones and many would touch products again.
When I made it back outside, I noticed a person who had just finished shopping. This person was wearing the same gloves she had been wearing in the store. She put her groceries in her car and got into her car. She then applied make up and lipstick, touching her face and lips, while still wearing the gloves she wore in the store!
Most people do not understand how to properly use and dispose of gloves. The people who I saw were ineffectively using gloves and likely spreading any germs the same way they would be if they were not wearing gloves.
During this pandemic, most experts have said that a pair of disposable gloves will not lower your risk of contracting COVID-19. This is because wearing gloves provides a false sense of security that bare hands do not. If you are wearing gloves while shopping and you touch your face, it completely defeats the purpose of wearing the gloves.
Let me do some myth busting for you.
Myth #1: You do not need to change gloves after putting them on
Truth #1: Wearing gloves does not prevent contamination by itself. Gloves can become contaminated after touching any item or surface. After you touch something that is contaminated, you must safely remove gloves and wash your hands or use sanitizer for the gloves to work effectively.
Myth #2: Any disposable glove can be used for any project.
Truth #2: You would not want to use the same gloves that you use to grab a donut out of the pastry case that you use to draw someone blood or control bleeding. There are different grades, materials and sizes. It is very important to always choose the correct size glove. A glove too small can rip and a glove too large can slip off--both potentially putting you at risk for contamination or exposure.
Myth #3: All gloves are the same.
Truth #3: Gloves come in latex, nitrile, plastic and vinyl. Each of these have different characteristics and do not perform equally in all situations. Latex is used least often, due to people's allergies to the material. Plastic is most commonly used in food preparation. Vinyl and nitrile are most often used in healthcare.
Myth #4: You do not have to wash your hands when wearing gloves.
Truth #4: You MUST wash your hands when you take your gloves off. At minimum, use hand sanitizer until you can get to a sink to wash your hands. It is also recommended you wash your hands before you put your gloves, just in case the glove tears. Remember that hand hygiene and gloves work two ways--you will reduce the risk of germs and contamination getting on your skin and you reduce the risk of spreading germs to others. Without hand washing, this risk still exists.
When I started my EMS career in 1991, gloves were promoted but not required for patient care in many places. During my first EMS classes, we were required to wear gloves for everything. Outside of the classroom, it was not the norm--it was almost frowned upon to don gloves! On one of the first EMS calls I responded to, a young woman fell through a window. She had hundreds of little cuts, including on her scalp. The EMT with me was not wearing gloves while caring for her injuries. I was the "odd" one because wearing gloves was not "necessary" or "cool.” It was not until 1993 that OSHA mandated glove use for healthcare providers.
Today, we have come a long way with our knowledge of diseases, what can be transmitted and how important disposable gloves really are. It is crucial for healthcare workers and members of the public to be aware that gloves reduce contamination but are not absolute barriers.
In my First Aid classes, I always teach students that they should imagine that their gloves are completely covered with something no one would want to touch with bare hands. It gets you thinking about contamination, cross contamination, how often to change gloves and how to proper remove them if you imagine this.
Please do not wear medical gloves unless you need them and are going to use them correctly. Please change your gloves often, avoid touching your face while wearing them and remember that gloves are not an absolute barrier.