Ensuring that healthcare workers are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is extremely important right now. As we continue to live in a world where COVID-19 is shaping our lives, it is critical that our healthcare workers are protected from getting ill.
However, not all recommended PPE is the same and wearing them isn’t always easy. Keep reading below for the recommended PPE by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and tips on how to effectively wear them.
Recommended PPE & Safety Tips for Hands
Healthcare workers are required to wear gloves when working with patients positive for COVID-19. However, it is best practice to wear gloves when working with any patient due to how easily the virus spreads. The CDC includes helpful tips on glove use including the following:
- Gloves should fit comfortably (not too loose or too tight).
- The CDC recommends working from “clean to dirty.” This means that when wearing gloves, you should be mindful to touch clean surfaces/body parts before non-clean surfaces/body parts.
- Avoid unnecessary touches. This includes avoiding touching your hair, glasses, or surfaces when wearing gloves. This is due to the contamination that can occur.
- Change gloves frequently, including if they are torn and before seeing a patient.
- Wash your hands before and after putting on/taking off gloves.
With constant hand washing, sweating inside gloves, and coming in contact with cleaning chemicals can cause skin irritations and dryness. Excessively dry skin is prone to cracking, bleeding, and therefore can get infected. According to DermNET NZ, healthcare workers are prone to hand dermatitis. Hand dermatitis is “a common group of acute and chronic eczematous disorders that affect the dorsal and palmar aspects of the hand.”
In addition, a recent article was published stating that out of 4,306 responses, 42.% of people who worked in the hospital setting reported having skin injuries! It is recommended to use products that soften the skin including “lotions, oils, creams and ointments”
Recommended PPE & Safety Tips for Skin & Clothing
Since healthcare workers can’t change their scrubs or work uniform throughout the day, gowns and aprons are used to protect not only their clothes, but their skin too. Here are some tips about wearing gowns from the CDC:
- If limited contamination is anticipated, wear an apron. However, if the arms are expected to be contaminated, then put on a gown.
- Not all gowns are made of the same material. If fluid penetration is expected, it is safest to wear a fluid resistant gown.
- There is a difference between “sterile” and “clean” gowns. Sterile gowns are used for invasive procedures, while clean gowns are primarily used for isolation.
Even if a healthcare worker wears their gown/apron all day, it is still important to safely remove, store, and wash those clothes. Check out this post here on how to decontaminate what you wear to work.
Recommended PPE & Safety Tips for Face
There are a few types of recommended PPE to protect the face from the COVID-19 virus. This includes masks, face shields, and goggles. Each form of protection has its own benefits and drawbacks. Check out CDC’s recommendations on how to wear and choose them:
- Masks only cover your nose and mouth. The prefer fit is a mask that has a flexible nose piece and can be adjusted with string ties or elastic.
- A N95 respirator mask will filter out airborne particles, while a mask with provide a physical barrier. Therefore, it is recommended to use a N95 mask if it is available.
- Goggles protect the eyes and it is best to wear goggles with anti-fog features.
- For ultimate protection of the eyes, nose, and mouth, one can either wear a face mask with goggles or a face shield.
- A face shield should cover your face from your forehead down to your chin.
The CDC recommends removing your face mask prior to washing your hands. Also, washing your hands before putting a face mask on is also important if masks are being reused. To learn more about masks, check out this post and this one.
It can be tricky to manage wearing all of this PPE every day. There have been countless stories of healthcare workers reporting feel claustrophobic, excessively sweating, and experiencing skin irritation. Are you a healthcare worker who has to wear the reccommended PPE? If you have any tips on managing all of this protective gear, comment below!