If you’ve been wearing gloves while grocery shopping and doing essential errands, you’re likely spreading germs to everything you touch, including your supplies, your phone and your face, experts warn. While New Jersey law requires everyone to wear a face mask while shopping, many of us have also been wearing gloves. The problem: Unless you immediately throw those gloves away after each use, you’re likely contaminating everything you touch.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) doesn’t recommend wearing gloves to protect yourself while shopping. Here are the latest CDC guidelines on protecting yourself at the supermarket or other stores:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face mask or covering.
  • Try to avoid crowds by shopping early in the morning or late at night.
  • If you’re at higher risk for severe illness, find out if the store has special hours for high-risk individuals.
  • Wipe down your shopping cart with wipes if you have them.
  • Never touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • If you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, use hand sanitizer right after paying.

Shopping during virus©istockphoto.com / Vesnaandjic

Once you leave the store, use hand sanitizer and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water as soon as you get home. Be sure to follow the CDC’s food safety guidelines when unpacking groceries.

Who Should Be Wearing Gloves?
So when should you use gloves, according to the CDC? There are only two times the CDC suggests wearing gloves to protect yourself against COVID-19:  if you’re cleaning and disinfecting your home or if you’re a healthcare worker treating someone who is a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient.

The debate about whether or not we should wear gloves at the supermarket has been heightened since some have shared pictures of signs at stores advising against wearing gloves. A video by a Michigan nurse that demonstrates how easy COVID-19 cross- contamination can be recently went viral. In the video, Molly Lixey uses paint to represent germs, demonstrating how easy it is to spread germs through phones and car doors even while wearing gloves. 

A big problem with wearing gloves, experts say, is that they may give you a false sense of security and make you less careful about washing your hands or avoiding touching your face. Cross-contamination is most likely to happen when you’re putting on and taking off your gloves. Make sure you wash your hands before putting your gloves on and after taking them off and follow CDC guidelines for how to take gloves off.

Another reason to rethink wearing gloves? Experts worry mass purchases of gloves will leave hospitals and healthcare workers facing a shortage. In a letter to healthcare workers, the FDA says it “recognizes the need for personal protective equipment (PPE), such as medical gloves, may outpace the supply available to health care organizations” during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Danger of Reusing Gloves
Experts also warn that it’s not a good idea to wash and reuse gloves. “Washing gloves does not necessarily make them safe for reuse,” the CDC advises. “It may not be possible to eliminate all microorganisms and washing can make the gloves more prone to tearing or leaking.”

The bottom line: Frequent hand washing is the most effective way to protect yourself and others. If you can’t wash your hands, using hand sanitizer is the next best thing until you’re able to wash your hands in warm, soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

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