Can wearing gloves help prevent coronavirus? Here’s what health experts say

·5 min read

Medical experts advise against wearing surgical masks to protect yourself against coronavirus, but what about disposable latex or latex-free gloves?

It turns out gloves aren’t a good idea, either, in spite of the fact that the COVID-19 virus may spread by contact with infected surfaces, experts say on the Today show.

“I don’t think they’re going to do anything but give people a false sense of security, waste time and create more demand for something that’s unnecessary, just like masks,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Today reported.

“Many people are still going to touch their face with the glove, which is actually probably worse,” Adalja said, according to the show.

More than 127,000 cases of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed worldwide with more than 4,700 deaths as of March 12, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has more than 1,300 confirmed cases with at least 38 deaths.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic.

How does coronavirus spread?

While scientists are still investigating, the virus appears to spread in respiratory droplets from people coughing or sneezing. Others are infected by breathing in the droplets, or possibly by touching infected surfaces and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

A new study found the COVID-19 virus remains viable up to three hours later in the air, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, McClatchy News reported.

Why aren’t gloves a good idea?

It might seem logical that gloves could help prevent you from touching infected surfaces, but it doesn’t really work that way outside of a clinical setting, experts say.

“If you’re touching unclean surfaces with gloves and then touching your face, you might as well not wear them at all,” said Lindsay Broadbent, a virologist at Queen’s University Belfast in Ireland, The Guardian reported.

You’d have to change your gloves or wash and disinfect them as often as you would your hands in order for them to be effective, according to the publication.

“Otherwise they’re like a second skin,” Broadbent said, The Guardian reported.

Gloves also aren’t very sturdy, reducing their usefulness in everyday life, Today reported.

“Latex gloves can rip very easily,” said Adalja, according to the show. “They’re not designed for going out, running up stairs, doing things in daily life. They’re not very durable when it comes to pumping gas or anything.”

“They’re going to get holes,” he said, Today reported. “They’re not meant for wearing during activities and daily living. Even as a physician, I have my gloves rip all the time.”

Can gloves increase your risk for coronavirus?

Like face masks, gloves can give people a false sense of security about their chances of contracting the COVID-19 virus, The Independent reported.

Also, wearing gloves may simply provide a new surface for the coronavirus to inhabit, especially if people sneeze or cough into them, said Aline Holmes, a registered nurse based in New Jersey, Today reported.

“Wearing gloves isn’t necessarily going to do anything,” Holmes said, according to Today. “Eventually, you’ll take those gloves off.”

What’s this about face masks?

“The average healthy person does not need to have a mask, and they shouldn’t be wearing masks,” says Dr. Eli Perencevich, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine, according to Forbes.

“There’s no evidence that wearing masks on healthy people will protect them,” Perencevich said, the publication reported. “They wear them incorrectly, and they can increase the risk of infection because they’re touching their face more often.”

Surgical face masks, which trap respiratory droplets, are effective at stopping infected people from spreading the virus, but can make healthy people more susceptible.

N95 respirator masks are effective at protecting against viruses, but only if properly fitted and worn, which requires training, experts say.

“If you just buy them at CVS, you’re not going to do all that,” said Timothy Brewer, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health and its David Geffen School of Medicine, The Washington Post reported.

“You’re not going to get it fit-tested, and you’re not going to be wearing it properly, so all you’ve done is spend a lot of money on a very fancy face mask,” Brewer said, according to the publication.

What should people do to prevent coronavirus?

“They need to wash their hands and not touch their face,” Adalja said, according to Today.

There’s no vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, and experts say one may be months away from mass production.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, staying home when you are sick, covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

The agency also advises washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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