Should You Be Wearing Disposable Gloves During COVID-19?

Jacky Chan, Jan 01, 2021

If you’re getting tired of the constant handwashing (and maybe even dealing with dry skin from all that soap and hot water) to protect yourself from the coronavirus, you may wonder if you could get the same protection by wearing disposable gloves. After checking the CDC guidelines and consulting two infectious-disease experts, we can confidently tell you: Don’t worry about it. The CDC does not currently recommend gloves for running errands or going to the grocery store. (Right now, it’s recommended to wear them only while caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19 or while using cleaning products.) And the experts we spoke to warned that gloves can have the unfortunate side effect of providing a false sense of security.

“People think of disposable gloves as magic bullets, and they are not. They are another source of contamination,” says Ravina Kullar, an infectious-disease specialist, epidemiologist, and spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “You are in essence just transporting all the bacteria and viruses you have touched from one surface to another [via your gloves] and may potentially be prone to touch your face more often.” Without gloves, she says, you’re likely going to be more aware of washing your hands or using hand sanitizer after touching a potentially contaminated surface. Aaron E. Glatt, chair of medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau and also an IDSA spokesperson, agrees that in most cases, “you’re actually better off washing your hands,” as people wearing gloves will often touch many different surfaces, including their faces, before switching out their gloves.

For those who are living with or caring for someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you’re going to want to use disposable gloves. It’s also not a bad idea to wear gloves while disinfecting surfaces around your home — although that’s more to protect your skin from the chemicals in cleaning products than from the coronavirus. In this case, you can wear either disposable or reusable gloves, like dishwashing gloves. If you don’t have gloves, then it’s important to wash your hands with soap and hot water frequently or, when that’s not an option, use hand sanitizer. You can check out some of our favorite alcohol-based sanitizers here, and if you’re dealing with dryness, Strategist writer Rio Viera-Newton swears by this affordable cream for keeping her hands smooth.

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