BY KIMBERLY ALTON
Live Healthy Hartsville
I try not to go to the store until I absolutely have to. Before we started with all of these pandemic changes, I didn’t go to the store that often anyway. I like to make my list and make one trip.
I do my Christmas shopping the same way — just not a big fan of shopping. Having said that, one of the things that I do not do is wear gloves to the store. More about that in a minute.
As I was driving through town the other day, I passed a car. What caught my eye about this car was the person driving wearing a pair of blue disposable gloves. I was baffled at why someone would wear these gloves to drive.
When I got home, I had a conversation about these gloves. It was at that moment that I decided this week’s article was going to be about why you should leave the gloves alone.
By now you have probably read articles about why you shouldn’t wear disposable gloves and how in health care the doctors and nurses change gloves in between patients or after tasks. In hospital food service, we change gloves — A LOT! Let’s take a brief glimpse at the day in the life of just one of my employees in Food and Nutrition Services and how often they are required to change gloves.
Employee A clocks in to work at 5 a.m. She puts her personal belongings in her locker, grabs a hair net and apron and goes to the handwashing sink to wash her hands. She then goes to the storeroom, freezer or cooler to gather ingredients. Once they get back to their workstation with all of their ingredients, they will wash their hands again, and then for the first time they will don a pair of gloves.
Employee A is mixing up biscuit mix and realizes she forgot to grab the buttermilk. She grabs some out of the milk cooler, but now she must take these gloves off (she should have done that before she went in the cooler), wash her hands and put a fresh pair of gloves on.
She finishes mixing biscuits and panning them up for the oven and is going to get started with cutting up fruit. Before she begins with the fruit, she must change gloves out because she changed tasks. Once again, she will remove her gloves, wash her hands and put a new pair on.
This process happens multiple times throughout Employee A’s shift. She needs to use the restroom, or she has a meal break — each time she follows the same process of removing gloves, washing hands and getting a fresh pair of gloves on. Between each task, she must change her gloves. It might be between the biscuits and fruit in the morning or cookies and rolls at lunch, but she is constantly changing her gloves. One employee may equal 10-plus pair of gloves in their shift depending on what tasks they have to complete.
Now, going back to that driver with the blue gloves. Did they just come from the store? Did they put a fresh pair on when they went in the store and then removed them after they put their groceries in their vehicle? Did they sanitize their hands before they put a new pair of gloves on?
By the way, putting clean gloves on dirty hands is of ZERO benefit.
Did they then get home and change gloves before they removed groceries from the car? If not, they should have. Otherwise they contaminated them with their seatbelt and steering wheel. Did they have to adjust the radio or the temperature controls? Again, all potential contaminating sources.
It’s important to note that the CDC only recommends wearing gloves in two situations. One is when you are sanitizing your home. The second is when you are a health care worker providing care to someone suspected of having or positively diagnosed with COVID-19. That’s it.
Remember that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, which means it must enter your respiratory tract. This typically occurs when people inhale infected droplets. A much smaller proportion of transmission can happen when someone touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth — also known as your T-Zone.
Gloves are ineffective in grocery shopping, because they don’t stop you from touching your face. While you might think it’s safer for you to have the gloves on instead of touching the cart with your bare hands — the truth is that gloves harbor germs, too. Germs do not miraculously disappear off of a glove — they are just there.
Bottom line: I don’t wear gloves to the store, in my car, to the bank or any other public place. What I do is WASH MY HANDS! I also keep hand sanitizer in my car, in my bag, in my office — wherever I may need to sanitize my hands when a sink is not readily available. Make sure you are washing your hands properly in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. If you are using hand sanitizer, work up some friction and keep rubbing until your hands are dry.
If you still cannot bear to go to the store or any other business without wearing gloves, please remember to continue to follow good hand hygiene. Don’t dump your gloves in the parking lots. Practice social distancing.
Better days are ahead. Until next time … live healthy!
Kimberly Alton, RD, CSSD, LD,
is the director food and nutrition services at Carolina Pines
Regional Medical Center.