Should we be wearing gloves when we're out and about?

Guidelines around coronavirus are changing on an almost daily basis.

That makes it hard for us to know whether we’re doing the right thing in helping to stop the spread of the virus and protect ourselves and those around us.

At the start of the pandemic, it wasn’t unusual to see people wearing latex gloves when out and about, and although this has died down mostly, given a second wave may be on the horizon, is it time to start taking precautions like this again?

Apparently not.

According to the American Center for Disease Control (CDC): ‘Wearing gloves [outside of healthcare settings] (for example, when using a shopping cart or using an ATM) will not necessarily protect you from getting Covid-19 and may still lead to the spread of germs.’

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They instead recommend regular hand washing and using a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol between tasks.

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) add: ‘There is currently insufficient evidence to recommend the regular use of gloves as a preventive measure in the context of COVID-19 to the public and to people in most occupations.’

The waste created from disposable gloves is not to be ignored, and given how often healthcare professionals change theirs at work – and therefore how often we need to – we’d be throwing away a lot of gloves.

As Dr Perpetua Emeagi, lecturer in Human Biology and Biological Sciences at Liverpool Hope University, gloves can create a ‘false sense of protection’ that could actually cause more harm than good. 

Dr Emeagi, a specialist in public health and vaccine development, said: \We know that viruses and other diseases spread from hand to person through touch. 

‘It could be through a handshake of contaminated hands or via contaminated hands touching something and then leaving germs on the surface, and it’s clearly exacerbated through improper hand washing.

‘And so wearing gloves while out and about might sound like a sensible thing to do, it’s not as simple as that.  In my opinion, it could actually give people a false sense of protection against Covid-19 – and one that could be quite dangerous. 

‘You have to remember that you will spread germs with a gloved hand just as effectively as you would a bare hand. 

‘And I’ve seen this played out countless times. In a laboratory setting, a student might be wearing gloves to protect themselves from germs, but at the same time use a gloved hand to hold their phone, or their pen.

‘When they remove the gloves, they pick up their contaminated phones with their clean hands, and the transferral of germs begins in earnest. 

‘It’s the same for members of the public who might, for example, wear gloved hands to hold their car keys or wallet before handling the same item with bare hands. 

‘It’s my strong view that wearing gloves outside will not protect everyone.’

In short, practising good hand hygiene and social distancing are the best ways to protect yourself and others. Leave the gloves to the pros.

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