Wrong usage of gloves and masks could put your health at risk, warns doctor

Wrong usage of gloves and masks could put your health at risk, warns doctor

Doctor Mabowa Makhomisane says the wrong usage of masks and gloves could spread the coronavirus.

Gloves and mask
Gloves and mask/ iStock

Since the coronavirus outbreak, many people have been wearing gloves and masks to protect themselves from contracting the virus. 

However, Dr Mabowa Makhomisane, a GP based in Limpopo, warns that without proper usage, people could be doing more harm than good. 

He says the public needs to understand how gloves and masks work before using them. 

Dr Makhomisane says gloves are not meant to be worn for long or to touch different surfaces as this could lead to more germs spreading. 

He says, for instance, doctors would use one set of gloves when treating a patient and would throw them away as soon as they are done, without touching anything else. "That way you don’t transmit the infection from one person to the next patient," he says. 

"So, the same principle applies now with COVID-19. If I’m going to be wearing those gloves throughout the day and I’m touching different surfaces and I’m touching all sorts of things, this could put a person at risk of contracting the virus." 

He also warns that if one wears gloves and touches a surface that has droplets from an infected person and then answers the phone, that could put him or her at risk. 

"If you are wearing gloves when you answer your phone, you are basically bringing those same gloves very close to your mouth were those droplets can simply be inhaled," he warns. 

So, it is best to throw away gloves after a single use before touching anything else. He says gloves should only be used if you have a lot of them and can change after every usage. 

“We do not recommend them at all unless that person has a whole box and every time they touch something, they keep on changing,” he says. 

Some people use hand sanitizers on gloves. This, according to the doctor, is not advisable. 

READ: Coronavirus: Frequently asked questions

When it comes to the wearing of masks, Dr Makhomisane says the best masks to wear are the n95 masks, which are hard to find. 

"What works for this kind of virus is the n95 mask. The n95 mask blocks all bacteria and particles from entering the mask up to 95 per cent. So that is basically the one we recommend and that is the one that healthcare users are using, but unfortunately, it is very scarce and not enough for everybody," he says. 

The doctor advises that masks should be worn by people who are already infected with COVID-19 or those treating patients, and he says even those masks should be changed regularly. 

He warns that other masks available on the market do not necessarily offer the best protection. 

"It decreases the chance, but it doesn’t protect you 100 per cent, because it is not designed for COVID-19," says the doctor. 

"Because COVID-19 is a droplet illness, if somebody coughs in front of you and the droplet ends on your mouth, basically that droplet is going to be sitting on your mask for the longest of time. So you will be breathing in through that mask the whole time and eventually there is a risk that that same bug can go into your nose," he warns. 

Dr Makhomisane says the best way to prevent the virus is to regularly wash hands with running water and soap and to stay at home. 

READ: Covid-19 death 'reinforces importance of lockdown'

He says even if you hand sanitize, it is still important to wash your hands with soap. 

"Hand sanitizer works, but it is very inferior to handwashing with soap. It is way better to wash the whole hands with running water because that way we know that even though you did not kill all the bugs on your hands [with hand sanitizer] you are able to wash them off your hands," he says.

"What is recommended is hand washing and staying at home, everything else will put you at risk," he says. 

"Staying at home is not necessary treatment. It is a way of secluding yourself from infecting other people, but we also know that many people will get better by staying at home."

READ: No need for masks, gloves – Gauteng Health

Image courtesy of iStock/ Yevhenii Orlov

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