The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to update its recommendations for how individuals can protect themselves from catching or spreading the coronavirus. Health officials still say the best way to avoid getting sick is to limit your exposure to the virus, which means staying home as much as possible.
However, everyone needs to get out from time to time to get groceries and other necessities. So, the CDC guidelines now recommend everyone wear a face mask while out in public. As an added layer of protection against the virus, some people are also wearing gloves when out and about.
While rubber or disposable gloves sound like a good idea for protecting our hands from germs, wearing them can lull us into a false sense of security. Many people forget about the dangers of cross-contamination from touching items while wearing gloves. Even the most diligent wipe-down of a shopping cart or a smartphone can be rendered useless with one or two touches of ordinary items in a store.
Dr. Michelle Tarbox from Lubbock, Texas participated in an interview with EverythingLubbock and offered an eye-opening example of how we might not be aware that we’re picking up unwanted germs, even when we’re wearing gloves.
In the interview, Tarbox refers to a training video for doctors and lab workers about how quickly a contaminant can spread. The video shows a person wearing gloves and then touching a chemical that glows under certain lighting. After the person touches the chemical, they then move on to other objects — leaving traces of the chemical on everything they touch.
“You can see how much cross-contamination can occur and you can get cross-contamination from one site to another place,” Tarbox explains in the video, posted to YouTube by EverythingLubbock. “And then you can pick up that contaminant with another person and that can be transferred again.”
Even for those who wear gloves, if they touch something that is contaminated, they may then spread those germs onto their smartphones, shopping carts, gas pumps or other items. Then, those items become contaminated.
Tarbox says wearing gloves in public may not necessarily help with cross-contamination, but they can be a good reminder for us to practice better hygiene and not to touch our faces.
“Wearing any kind of medical glove, it’s an extra layer of reminder that I might have something on my hands I don’t want on my face,” she said.
“But you can just as easily transfer particles from the glove surface to other surfaces as you can from fingertips. So … they’re not magical.”