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Should I Wear Gloves or Just Wash My Hands?

While wearing gloves is recommended for some activities — such as cleaning with chemicals or caring for someone who is ill — wearing them while running errands or performing everyday tasks isn’t necessary. In fact, by not adhering to proper guidelines, you may be spreading germs rather than keeping you and your loved ones protected.

Don’t Spread Germs

Wearing gloves while using a shopping cart or an ATM, for example, will not necessarily protect you from getting COVID-19. As far as running errands is concerned, the best way to protect yourself is by using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol or washing your hands with soap regularly for 20 or more seconds.

Sanitize your hands using an alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and running water. Rub both hands vigorously, making sure to cover both sides of the hands, as well as spaces between fingers and under the fingernails. Rinse soap with running water, then dry with a clean towel or disposable paper towel. If using a hand sanitizer, rub at least 15-20 seconds or until dry.

You should always sanitize your hands before putting gloves on, when changing your gloves and after covering your mouth while sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose.

Reconsider Your Options

A few reasons to reconsider wearing gloves during your normal day-to-day activities include the following:

  • Wearing gloves may provide you with a false sense of security that makes you less careful than you might normally be about your hand hygiene.

  • Wearing or using your gloves incorrectly can result in cross contamination that accidentally causes you to pass germs or viruses on to others. 

  • Proper use of gloves requires changing them frequently between different tasks.

Caring for a Sick Family Member

An exception to not using gloves at home applies to anyone caring for a sick family member. In that case, it’s appropriate to use disposable gloves:

  • To clean or disinfect around the sick person or any surfaces they’ve touch 

  • When having contact with blood, stool or body fluids such as saliva, mucus, vomit or urine.

Afterwards, dispose of the gloves in a lined trash can and thoroughly wash your hands. 

Glove Use in the Workplace

As far as wearing gloves while at your place of work is concerned, there are specific activities where you are encouraged to use gloves as a safety precaution.

For example, it is considered a safe work practice to wear gloves when using cleaning chemicals to disinfect. And in the food industry, gloves may be worn when handling raw, cooked or ready-to-eat foods. In these circumstances, polyvinyl or polyethylene gloves are the preferred choice rather than latex. 

If gloves are worn, they should be changed after emptying garbage cans, mopping floors or cleaning countertops. When performing the same task, gloves can be used for an extended period of time. But remember to change them frequently, at least every four hours of continual use. When moving between different tasks, such as handling money and preparing food, always change gloves.

Dos and Don’ts

If you choose to wear gloves, be sure to:

  • Properly remove them.

  • Use high-quality, durable gloves to minimize any possible leaking or tearing.

  • Change gloves when indicated, including after touching any area of exposed skin.

When wearing gloves, don’t: 

  • Reuse or wash them. Use a new pair instead.

  • Use gloves that are damaged or visibly soiled.

  • Substitute gloves for hand hygiene, such as washing your hands with soap and water.

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