To this date, more than 2 million people in 210 countries have been infected with COVID -19.
Since the outbreak, people have been doing preventive measures to protect themselves from getting infected. These include maintaining physical distancing, thoroughly cleaning hands with soap and water or alcohol-based rub, constantly disinfecting and even wearing gloves and masks when there’s a need to go to public places. But the latter has been controversial. Does wearing a mask or gloves an effective way to prevent yourself from getting infected?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC recommends wearing close face coverings in public places and in areas with significant community-based transmission. This is to minimize the transmission of virus especially from those who are asymptomatic and have no idea that they are already infected. With masks shortage, CDC advises the use of simple masks that are created from household items or in short, the use of DIY masks. Wearing a mask, however, is not advised for children under the age of 2, those who have breathing issues and those who lack the ability to wear and remove the masks themselves.
Knowing how to use and dispose them however are both critically important. According to WHO, these steps should be followed when choosing to wear masks:
- Clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water before touching the mask.
- Inspect it for tears and holes
- Orient which side is the top side (where the metal strip is)
- Ensure the proper side of the mask faces outwards (the colored side)
- Cover your mouth and nose and make sure there will be no gaps between your face and the mask
- Avoid touching the mask when you are using it however if you do, make sure you clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or with soap and water.
- Remove the mask from behind to remove it and do not attempt to touch the front of the mask.
- Discard the used mask immediately in a closed bin and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or clean them with an alcohol-based rub.
- Do not reuse it. Replace it once it is damp. If you are using a reusable mask, make sure that it’s properly disinfected.
Aside from wearing masks, you can also see people wearing gloves in public places to protect themselves from getting infected.
Now the question is, are gloves, just like masks, also an effective way of protecting yourself from the disease?
Disposable gloves are worn by medical experts to protect themselves from bacteria and viruses but only for a very short time. This is because disposable gloves are usually made from porous materials which makes easier for pathogens to penetrate the supposedly protective cover. Therefore, medical experts carefully disinfect their hands after using them.
Warning: Gloves Can Be a Little Deceptive
There could be a lot of ways for the virus to spread and one of them is by touching a contaminated surface. Although thoroughly cleaning your hands with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub is still considered as your best defense, you won’t have access to these all the time, especially when you do grocery shopping or going to public places. This is probably why you see a lot of people wearing them.
But according to experts, wearing gloves can provide a false sense of security compared to not using them at all. This is because those gloves can be contaminated too.
So, if you wear them and think that you can touch anything – including your face, that defeats the purpose of wearing them in the first place.
Disposable gloves still cannot replace proper hand washing and disinfecting.
However, should you feel the need to wear them in public places, you must follow these steps:
- Clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or with soap and water before putting a new pair of gloves.
- Check if they are soiled or ripped. If they are, replace them immediately.
- Do not touch your face with it- your eyes, mouth, and noise. If you do, replace them immediately.
- Do not re-use disposable gloves. Put them in a closed bag in the non- recyclable bin.
- Reusable gloves, however, should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after use.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after removing them.
The bottom line is, we need to do the best that we can to protect ourselves and the people that we know from contracting the virus. When able, wear masks and gloves but remember to use and dispose of them properly. Also, to reiterate, wearing them does not replace other essential public health control measures: social distancing, proper handwashing and disinfecting.
Let us all be safe and healthy!
The World Health Organization https://www.who.int/