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What you need to know today about gloves and COVID-19

Article-What you need to know today about gloves and COVID-19

Medical gloves that protect against COVID-19
Can medical gloves protect against the coronavirus? Answers to this and more questions.

Medical gloves, as described by the FDA, are examples of personal protective equipment (PPE) that are used to protect the wearer and/or the patient from the spread of infection or illness during medical procedures and examinations.  

Medical gloves are one part of an infection-control strategy.

Can medical gloves protect healthcare workers against the coronavirus?

In its guidance for wearing and removing PPE in healthcare settings for the care of patients with suspected COVID-19, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control advised that gloves should be used when managing suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. 

The FDA has not cleared, approved, or authorised any medical gloves for specific protection against the virus that causes COVID-19 or prevention of COVID-19 infection.

However, in its factsheet on PPE the CDC explains that nonsterile disposable patient examination gloves, which are used for routine patient care in healthcare settings, are appropriate for the care of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

According to CDC Guidance, extended length gloves are not necessary when providing care to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. Extended length gloves can be used, but CDC is not specifically recommending them at this time.

The CDC adds that the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has developed standards for patient examination gloves that include length requirements, which must be a minimum of 220-230mm, depending on glove size and material type.

Can you sanitise disposable gloves?

The WHO advises that gloves should be worn when providing direct care for a COVID-19 case and then removed, followed by hand hygiene (hand washing) between COVID-19 patients. Using the same gloves for a cohort of coronavirus cases (extended use) must not be done.

Changing gloves between dirty and clean tasks during care to a patient and when moving from a patient to another, accompanied by hand hygiene, is absolutely necessary. Double gloving is not recommended, except for surgical procedures that carry a high risk of rupture.

Can gloves protect against coronavirus for the general public?

When not providing direct care for a COVID-19 patient, the WHO cautions that handwashing with soap offers more protection against catching the coronavirus than wearing rubber gloves. It explains that the coronavirus can still be picked up on gloves and that this can be transferred to one's face.

Should you wear gloves while you grocery shop?

Patricia Dandache, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic, suggests going grocery shopping without gloves, and wearing a face mask among other steps.

However, whether you can or cannot differs by territory. Measures introduced in Dubai during the coronavirus outbreak, for example, require the general public to wear gloves and masks at all times when leaving the home for essential errands.

Why are there medical glove shortages? 

Major distributors in the US have reported shortages of PPE that include gloves. According to the WHO in its interim guidance, global demand for PPE is driven not only by the number of coronavirus cases but also by misinformation, panic buying and stockpiling. 

What is being done to address medical glove shortages?

Malaysia's Top Glove, a leading manufacturer of gloves worldwide, expects global demand for gloves to double in 2020. It has increased its utilisation to near 100 percent, while its lead time has increased from 30 days to 150 days.

In September 2020, Top Glove announced that its fiscal 2020 post-tax profit grew 417 percent from last year due to the global surge in demand for gloves amid the pandemic. The business also expects up to 30 percent additional growth for 2021.

Chinese factories are reportedly increasing glove production capacities:

However, there has also been a reported rise in counterfeit medical gloves, potentially posing a health risk:

The FDA identified a series of medical glove conservation strategies for healthcare providers aimed at augmenting, rather than replacing, specific controls and procedures developed by health authorities:

  • Conventional Capacity Strategies (supply levels are adequate to provide patient care without any change in routine practice)
  • Contingency Capacity Strategies (limited supply levels may change patient care, but may not have a significant impact on patient care and health care provider safety)
  • Crisis or Alternate Strategies if Medical Gloves are Running Low or Not Available (may need to be considered if medical glove supplies are critically low and demand is high)

A 3D printing company has meanwhile developed a medical device named the Distancer allowing health care workers to pass through a hospital safely without directly touching surfaces or any door handle, thereby avoiding contamination. The Distancer simply hooks on to the handle to let the holder through. 

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