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Medical gloves 101
The outbreak of the novel COVID-19 virus has caused an enormous number of cases and fatalities across the globe. Individuals and professionals alike are now having to implement substantially stricter infection control measures in order to prevent further spread of the disease.
One essential piece of equipment, particularly for healthcare professionals, is medical gloves.
What are medical gloves?
Medical gloves are also known as latex gloves, surgical gloves, disposable gloves, rubber gloves and sterile gloves. They are part of what’s referred to as personal protective equipment (PPE) and are most commonly used in medical situations. Because we touch everything with our hands, including our faces, they are the most common means of infection spread. In order to keep environments clean and sterile – and limiting the risk of disease from spreading – medical gloves are worn.
The process of infection spreading via hands in a medical environment is known as cross-contamination between the patient and the doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional. Medical gloves is one of the best measures for making sure infectious bodily materials or fluids aren’t transferred from one individual to another.
What kinds of medical gloves are there?
Medical gloves come in several types and each is intended for a different purpose. Generally speaking, the gloves are divided into two categories, namely examination gloves and surgical gloves. The latter of the two are generally more expensive, have more precision when it comes to sizing, and are manufactured higher-standard than examination gloves. Examination gloves are available as either sterile or non-sterile, but the main purpose of all types of medical gloves is to prevent cross-contamination and infection (both in terms of spread and in terms of environments that should be sterile).
The gloves are made from a number of different polymers, i.e. synthetics. These are latex, nitrile rubber, polyvinyl chloride and neoprene, and medical gloves come in either powdered or non-powdered varieties. Powdered gloves, which are most often powdered with corn starch, may cause irritation or an allergic reaction, and so oftentimes non-powdered gloves are preferred. This is particularly the case if the wearer is forced to use the gloves frequently or over a long period of time, as is the case for surgeons, doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel.
How should medical gloves be used?
The purpose of medical gloves is to prevent cross-contamination, and so the equipment is intended for single-use. This is because as soon as a contaminated surface is touched, or the wearer touches their face or any other non-sterile surface, the medical glove no longer serves its purpose. As such, medical gloves should be used only directly after the wearer has cleaned their hands, and should be discarded as soon as they’ve been contaminated.
If using medical gloves as a personal protective measure to reduce the risk of infection, it’s important to remember that once you’ve touched something other people could have touched, the gloves are also contaminated. That means they should be discarded before touching anything else that may transfer any infected materials. If using medical gloves as a preventative infection control measure in the home, it’s important to pay close attention to what they’re used for. Some people may be caring for symptomatic family members, and if so, the medical gloves should be single-use only.
Who needs medical gloves?
Medical gloves are primarily used for medical purposes, but are also worn by researchers, particularly in biochemistry and chemistry contexts. In other words, the equipment is most often used by doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals, as well as for research. This is also where the gloves are most pressing, seeing as they offer such good protection against cross-contamination, and so keeping infections from spreading between individuals in medical environments.
Healthcare services is also where medical gloves are most needed, particularly during the outbreak of a new and infectious disease. As such, the general public should be mindful of stocking up on equipment that may cause a shortage in hospitals or other healthcare environments. Medical gloves may be used as a personal protective measure, but only when necessary. This is, for example, if you’re caring for a symptomatic or ill person in the home, or if you’re forced to touch surfaces in public areas, where there is a higher risk of infection spreading.
Medical gloves in the coronavirus pandemic
During the coronavirus outbreak, medical gloves are a pivotal component of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals. During treatment, sampling and testing of suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19, these gloves offer essential protection, both to the worker and as an infection control measure. Because they are single-use only, the demand for medical gloves has also skyrocketed in health services across the globe.
The WHO does not recommend medical gloves as a necessary preventative measure against the coronavirus for individuals not in healthcare situations. Instead, the organization emphasises that keeping a safe distance from other people, staying at home if you develop symptoms, and cleaning your hands thoroughly and frequently are the most important individual efforts. This is also to reduce demand in the general public for materials needed by healthcare services.