Wearing gloves at the grocery store won’t necessarily reduce your risk of COVID-19 — Here’s why

Going on an essential trip to the grocery store or pharmacy during the coronavirus pandemic has many people suiting up to protect themselves, but health experts say some precautions might not be worth taking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face masks or cloth face coverings in public settings where it can be more difficult to maintain social distancing. Many have also chosen to wear gloves, but may not be using them correctly.

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“We’re seeing a lot of people out in public wearing gloves, which isn’t wrong so to say,” said Dr. Patricia Dandache, an infectious disease specialist with the Cleveland Clinic. “But unfortunately most people aren’t wearing or disposing of their gloves correctly, which defeats the whole purpose.”

A file image taken March 19, 2020 shows a person wearing rubber gloves while shopping at a grocery store. (Photo by Peter Steffen/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Outside of directly caring for a patient, health experts say there are many reasons why gloves aren’t always an effective protection measure.

First, there could be a tear or rip in the gloves, or people could be putting them on or taking them off incorrectly. Gloves can also give people a false sense of security and they end up touching everything — leading to self-contamination, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

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Gloves are only good protection if the person wearing them follows good protective measures, “but unfortunately most people will not,” the organization said.

Instead, Dandache recommends going on your next shopping trip without gloves and following these steps:  

-Don’t touch your face.
-Don’t touch your phone.
-Practice social distancing and stay at least 6 feet away from others at all times while in the store. 
-Limit the number of items or surfaces that you touch. 
-Wear a face mask, and don’t touch the mask once it’s on your face.
-If possible, sanitize your hands when you get to your car and immediately wash your hands when you get home after unloading groceries.

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Experts point out that any germs that might be on your gloves can be transferred to all other surfaces and items you touch, including your phone or wallet while in the store. 

“Social distancing, not touching your face, sanitizing your hands after you’re done shopping, followed by washing your hands is a reasonable approach to avoid acquiring the virus in the store,” Dandache added.

For those who do choose to wear gloves, experts with the Cleveland Clinic stress the importance of avoiding cross-contamination when wearing them and say it’s critical to follow the CDC’s recommendation on how to correctly remove them.

“Many people don’t take off their gloves the right way, further contaminating themselves and others around them,” Dandache said. “And you should never, ever reuse gloves.”

The CDC offers a visual guide on its website on how to properly remove gloves. Health experts say to always wash your hands immediately after doing so.

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This story was reported from Cincinnati.