The urge to wear gloves is an understandable one, particularly now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised Americans to wear cloth face coverings in public settings to help slow the spread of COVID-19. For some, it’s a matter of seeking a fully protective ensemble while grocery shopping or taking a walk; for others, such as essential workers, it’s a recommended part of the job. To practice preventative measures, you’d want to cover as much of yourself as possible, right? But, just as face masks and coverings require rigorous adherence to doctor-recommended best practices, gloves must be worn with care.
In order for gloves to be effective as personal protective equipment (PPE), you have to be extremely diligent in changing and disposing of them. While the CDC doesn’t recommend wearing gloves as it does cloth face coverings, many people are nevertheless using them. If you fall into that category, it’s imperative to educate yourself on how to do so properly.
To learn more, Allure spoke to health care experts, who offered guidance on when, where, and how to wear gloves.
Ask Yourself: Can I Wear Gloves Responsibly?
If you work in an industry deemed essential or live in an area heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high chance you have observed people wearing gloves. Before you jump to buy a box of disposable latex ones, contemplate whether you can adjust your habits, routine, and even mannerisms — remember how many of us just learned how often we touch our faces? — to maintain solid hygiene.
Jade Flinn, nurse educator at Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit, has seen people at the grocery store wearing all sorts of PPE who aren’t following the additional necessary procedures to prevent cross-contamination. “When we’re wearing PPE, we want to make sure our behaviors change,” says Flinn. “Be mindful of what you’re touching. If I’m touching a surface and want to scratch my nose, I need to think: Was that surface clean?”
Don’t think of gloves as a magic shield. Imagine them as a ribbon around your finger — a reminder to be conscientious about what you’re touching.
Don’t think of gloves as some sort of magic shield — they don’t kill germs on contact nor does wearing them automatically increase your level of protection. If you’re touching your smartphone or petting a dog or digging through your purse while wearing gloves, they cease to be a source of protection.
Instead, imagine gloves as a ribbon around your finger that reminds you to be conscientious about what you’re touching. If putting on a pair reminds you not to touch your phone, your face, or a very cute dog, then gloves become a helpful tool.
How Frequently Should You Change Your Gloves?
If you choose to wear gloves, you’ll need to change them frequently. Flinn uses this nifty rhyme to help her students remember: “Dirty to clean, change in between.”
Like “clean” and “dirty” zones in a kitchen, the world of hazardous materials neatly illustrates how to use PPE. Pete Raynor, a professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, explains: “In hazmat, the ‘hot zone’ is where you’re doing work with hazardous chemicals. The ‘warm zone’ is where people come back out, take off their PPE, decontaminate the equipment and themselves. Then they get in the ‘cold zone,’ where you can be normal.”
Put another way: the grocery store (hot), parking lot (warm, this is where you’d take off PPE), and your car (cold). Other “cold” zones are your personal belongings, which you don’t want contaminated, as well as your house. These are things you can and should sanitize often.
“I’m not advocating for glove use,” warns Raynor, “But if people are going to do it, make sure to take them off before you get to your car.”
The beaking method — which involves pulling off one glove halfway and then pulling off the other into it so “clean” skin doesn’t come in contact with the “contaminated” outer glove area — is the best way to remove gloves safely. Don’t toss them on the ground where a worker has to pick them up after you. Bring a baggie with you to dispose of the gloves if you can’t find a trash can.