Does wearing gloves safeguard us from contracting COVID-19?

Face masks are recommended, so should we wear gloves to safeguard against COVID-19?

Do gloves help combat COVID-19?

There might be debate about the effectiveness of face masks in safeguarding us from coronavirus, but the verdict is in on gloves.

In three words, forget about it.

“If you use gloves, just know that they’re not providing you with any extra protection,” says infectious diseases physician Dr Sumon Chakrabarti.

“I understand the reason why people want to do it – it seems like you’re putting a barrier there,” he says. But he finds that people wearing gloves in public “often wear the same set of gloves everywhere”.

“By doing this, you actually are paradoxically putting yourself more at risk for infections.

“The use of gloves is just too fraught with problems of cleanliness. They act as an extra thing to clean.

“It can give people a false sense of reassurance. People tend to wash their hands less when they’re wearing gloves.”

Dr Jeff Kwong, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Toronto, concurs.

“People might see (wearing gloves) as an extra layer of protection against things that they’re touching,” he says. “But whether you’re not wearing gloves and you touch something and it’s on your hands, or you are wearing gloves and you touch something … you’re still recommended to wash your hands.”

Asked whether gloves are useful for a visit to the grocery store, MD Arefa Cassoobhoy is blunt.

“The short answer is no.  You do not need any kind of gloves at the grocery store.

“Gloves will not protect you. If you touch a contaminated surface, the virus can transfer to your glove just like it could transfer to your fingers, so there’s no added protection from the gloves. If you touch your mouth or nose with the glove, you can pass the virus to yourself. And taking the gloves off after shopping is an especially vulnerable moment, as you can easily transfer any germs on the gloves to your hands and face if you’re not careful.”

You are more likely to catch the virus from the respiratory droplets of a person talking or sneezing near you rather than from an item you touch at the store, Dr Cassoobhoy says.

Social distancing and handwashing are still the most important ways to combat COVID-19.

“Gloves do not replace hand hygiene,” he says. “Given that gloves don’t protect you from the virus, wearing gloves doesn’t save you time from handwashing. You still have to keep up with hand hygiene. That’s the most important way to remove the virus from your hands.

“To protect yourself, you’ll want to use hand sanitiser as you enter and exit the grocery store and wipe down your shopping cart handle with a disinfectant. When you get home, wash your hands well with soap and water for 20 seconds. And clean any other items that might be dirty, like your phone and reusable grocery bags.”

Infectious disease specialist Patricia Dandache, MD says gloves do not give you immunity or permission to touch everything within reach either. “Any germs that might be on your gloves can be transferred to all other surfaces and items you touch. This is why it’s counterproductive to wear gloves yet continue to rummage through your purse or text on your phone while in the store,” she says.

“The coronavirus can enter your body through mucous membranes, like in your nose and mouth. It does not enter your body through your hands, but the hands can transport the viral particles to the mucus membranes. There’s even the possibility that the virus could stick to the latex in gloves better than it could adhere to your own skin.”

Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, says “failing to change gloves when needed is no different from failing to wash your hands”.

“It’s important to remember that most gloves that come in large packs are not sterile and are associated with a risk of cross-contamination and spread of disease. This is because they are often used when they aren’t really needed, put on too early, taken off too late or not changed at the appropriate times.”

He reminds us that the gloves used in food preparation are also far from sterile.

“When you see someone wearing gloves in a food preparation or retail environment, it’s worth remembering that they may have had them on for hours and might have handled contaminated material with them. For example, did the person who’s just cooked your burger handle the raw meat with gloves on, only to then give you the cooked product while wearing the same pair of gloves?”

He says gloves “should only ever be worn to protect healthcare workers from blood, bodily fluids or certain drugs”.

However, there is now one other category of person who should wear gloves:those living with someone who has contracted coronavirus.

Health New South Wales offers the following guidelines:

“Wear a surgical mask and disposable gloves when you are in the same room as the person with confirmed infection, or when you touch or have contact with the person’s blood, body fluids and/or secretions, such as sweat, saliva, sputum, nasal mucus, vomit, urine, or diarrhoea.

  • make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth at all times
  • throw out disposable surgical masks and disposable gloves after use
  • wash your hands immediately after removing the surgical mask and gloves.”

What protective measures do you take when doing the shopping?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    21st May 2020
    Unfortunately, most people in the community have NOT been trained in the correct use of personal protection equipment.
    People need to understand that gloves and face masks are designed for single use only and are NOT a general protective barrier.
    The use of gloves doesn't stop individuals from touching their faces for up to 30 times a day and putting themselves at risk of transmitting the virus from hand to mouth/nose.
    For goodness sake people, listen to the experts!
    21st May 2020
    Very true, clancambo
    Stupid extremists, such as the airline REX, has mandatory facemasks to travel on their planes. I will not wear one, because:
    it is not a recommendation from the CMO, who should know,
    I have a beard, so it is useless
    Wearing a mask is not effective for preventing a viral infection, unless a complete forced air hood variety with an appropriate filter
    They are claustrophobic for such as I, and many others.

    I have vast experience in such matters so they can argue with me as much as they want. I dealt with Asbestos for decades as well as some serious chemical and hospital wastes. Airlines can get stuffed if they want some psychologial or marketing BS to throw around. (everyone else can wear a mask, that is fine)
    21st May 2020
    I do agree Clancambo...the general public have no idea, unless one has worked in sterile conditions in a hospital...and has training for it. Education is required.
    21st May 2020
    Why they bother to use gloves and masks in hospital, then?
    21st May 2020
    Good point! :)
    21st May 2020
    Hospital folk are (mostly, except it seems in Tasmania) properly trained to use the appropriate gear (when it is available, and when they are told to use it by adequate managers). They are protecting themselves sometimes and the patient sometimes. It reduces but does not completely prevent contamination (how many health workers have died or become infected in other countries eg Britain, US? How many patients get infections "normally"?).
    Also they are exposed much of the time, not by passing a person in the street, or in a supermarket, or even in a plane for an hour or so. So their chances are MUCH greater.
    ALSO they use different masks etc for different situations because they (should) know what they are doing.

    So much misinformation about, wastage of PPE, panic, over-reaction and anxiety! Take care, keep away if you can, but have a life! If some folk really thought about hepatitus, STDs, flu, and the miriad of seriously nasty diseases that are floating about, they would never come out of the house.
    21st May 2020
    They are mostly used when there is a danger of handling body fluids such as blood. And that is standard procedure.

    In these days of COVID-19. full personal protective equipment (masks, eye shields, gowns, gloves) are used to protect the health worker who of necessity will be far closer to the patient than the required 1.5 mtrs. All this equipment should be discarded as they leave the patient and a new set used before going to the next person.

    People in supermarkets or elsewhere for that matter do NOT do this!
    21st May 2020
    I worked in a compounding sterile room for 3 years I know the correct way to use masks and gloves . I use the procedures I learned in hospital work when I go to the supermarket. I still wear gloves and a proper mask ( a mask decreases viral load and shedding, especially when one is asymptomatic). There needs to be education on how to put on a mask properly, remove it and how to use gloves prevent cross contamination, I wash my hands for 40 seconds, then use a sanitiser on them, then put on my gloves , then my mask ,then sanitise my gloves with 70 percent alcohol ( do it throughout my shopping) and I change my gloves when I go from one store to another. I go through so many gloves. Also, one needs to know how to take off gloves properly. I do not touch my face at all. More education is needed for proper hand washing and also how much of a hand sanitiser to use, and how to use it on the well and to not touch the face! I have seen people out and about not using hand sanitisers, masks and gloves properly at all..I have lost count!
    21st May 2020
    Gloves (rubber, vinyl) have fewer crevices than hands and can be washed and dried or sanitised just as often or more often than hands.
    Gloves protect hands from the drying effect of alcohol sanitisers and from absorbing the chemicals in the stronger trolley sanitisers
    A pair of cotton gloves underneath absorbs moisture in summer and makes for a cosy covering in winter.
    Put them on when leaving the house and take them off before entering the car or house.
    Even after COVID-19, I will continue to use gloves.
    21st May 2020
    That is true Janeri9, gloves do protect the drying effect from alcohol in sanitisers and actually by overwashing hands and making them so dry, will increase the risk of the virus getting into the dry crevices of the hands. Also, short nails are a must as the virus can get underneath the finger nails.
    21st May 2020
    I agree wearing normal gloves which are going to be worn elsewhere will not protect one. But! there should be a differential here. "Do plastic disposable gloves protect you". Of course they will. But they won't if you treat them like normal gloves. I wear plastic gloves whenever I go into a supermarket to do my shopping. When I come out I strip off one glove and open my car doors. I then use the other hand with the glove still on to put all my shopping on my back seat. I then strip off the other glove and dispose of both gloves and drive home. I practice the same thing when I get home to unpack my groceries. I see all this as extra protection as I am 78 although I am very healthy with no illnesses.
    21st May 2020
    Very good to hear Watson...I feel the same way! I am front line health worker, who cares for sick elderly parents and I have an autoimmune issue. I wish my father would follow your example! Just make sure that when you strip off the the dirty glove that it does not touch the clean hand ...There is a way to take off gloves properly...can easily find it on the internet. Cheers!
    21st May 2020
    Given that coronavirus is NOT absorbed through the skin and must be breathed in or transfered through touching a surface then mucus membranes i.e. mouth, nose eyes, the use of gloves is pointless. They will not protect against COVID-19. Further they can even give a false sensse of security. I have seen people wearing gloves yet behaving as though they aren't, adjusting a mask (that they have probably worn for far longer than the recommended 20 minutes and the wrong type or poorly fitting to boot), blowing their nose, rubbing eyes et etc etc. All using gloves and thinking they are somehow 'protected'. They aren't! Save your money.
    22nd May 2020
    KSS I don't get a false sense of security wearing gloves. They serve as a very good reminder not to touch my face and wash my hands as soon as I get home.
    Given that so few people in our community have the virus and those who have been tested positive are in isolation I would say it matters little if better use sanitiser, wear gloves or go commando.
    Me - I assess the environment and choose whether I need to be in the shop with all those people or not. I feel very sorry for those who rely on the train service for work. However if I did I would mask and glove up and wash my hands and face with soap and water as soon as arriving at work or home.
    My grand daughter has a shower as soon as she gets home to protect her family.
    21st May 2020
    I do use gloves if I have to use the atm. Alcohol on hands first, put on gloves, press the screen, remove cash and put somewhere where it will not be touched for 24 - 48 hours. Remove gloves - throw in nearby bin then hand sanitiser again.
    Other than that - most people would just be spreading the virus wearing gloves for an extended period of time. Carry your own hand sanitiser always - it is your friend.
    22nd May 2020
    I don't think I will ever eat out again after hearing about gloves worn by people preparing food.
    22nd May 2020
    Well because he doesn't wear gloves I will!
    Lets not wear them into surgery then!
    I wear the gloves in the supermarket to open freezer doors handle trolleys etc etc. They go on in the car and come off again in the car and I wash my hands as soon as I get home with soap not alcohol based products that ruin my hands. My hands don't touch any surface in the supermarket. What ever anybody else does or doesn't is their prerogative.
    It is an excellent defence against germs and flu on trains and buses and an age old method of protection from pre-vaccine days.
    That sanitising agent on the other hand causes dermatological hand issues and actually promotes bacterial infection. So if we all wore gloves we would all be safer.

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