Wearing gloves is no substitute for proper hand hygiene

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Due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a lot of people are getting introduced to personal protective equipment (PPE) and how to protect themselves from germs. However, with so much information being passed among people who are trying to do everything they can to protect themselves and others, misconceptions can be common.

One of the most common misconceptions? Gloves.

Have you seen anyone wearing gloves while shopping at the grocery store? Sure, at first glance it might seem like a prudent precaution to take. But Lori Grooms, director of infection prevention for OSF HealthCare, said wearing gloves in the grocery store is likely not providing people the protection they think.

“Everything you touch in the store may be contaminated, and gloves can pass on germs the same as dirty hands can,” Lori said. “Wearing gloves is not a substitute for proper hand washing and sanitizing.”

Health care workers wear gloves to keep themselves and patients safe while providing care, but they remove gloves immediately after touching a patient, clean their hands and put on new gloves before caring for another patient.

If you’re not removing the gloves, cleaning your hands and putting on new ones every time you touch something at the store, then you’re not improving your safety. You may be spreading contamination to everything you touch, and you still need to practice proper hand hygiene along with cleaning your possessions.

When should I clean my hands?

Clean your hands as you’re entering the grocery store. Sanitize your cart or grab one that has already been sterilized. Then shop.

Keep your cell phone in your car, purse or pocket. You should not be using it while in public spaces. You want to minimize what you take into the store, so fewer of your belongings are at risk of contamination. Maybe bring in a credit card, your license and your keys, or bring a small purse that stays on your shoulder.

After paying, leaving the store and loading your groceries, you should clean your hands. Don’t remove your keys from your pocket until you’re ready to use them. Clean off your keys, clean off the steering wheel, and when you get home, clean any fresh fruits or veggies that you don’t have to cook.

After you put everything away, clean your hands again.

Last Updated: May 18, 2020

About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is the proudest father and a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: COVID-19