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Glove use


Q. Can staff wear gloves instead of cleaning their hands?

A. No. Gloves are not a substitute for handwashing or hand disinfection. Glove usage should be appropriate for the task in hand and removed at the end of the task for which they were worn.


The WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care emphasise that the use of gloves does not replace the need for hand cleansing by either handrub or handwashing and that gloves should be removed after caring for a patient. It is also emphasised that the same pair of gloves should not be worn for the care of more than one patient. The advice goes even further, indicating that when wearing gloves they should be changed or removed during patient care if moving from a contaminated body site to a clean body site within the same patient.



Q. Do you need to clean your hands if you wear gloves?

A. Yes. Gloves used in healthcare may have holes in them allowing infectious agents to pass between the carer’s hands onto the patient, in either direction. Additionally, the hands of someone wearing rubber or latex gloves are well suited to bacterial growth, being warm and moist. Hands should be cleaned before and after every care activity and after any activity that may result in them being contaminated (ie, after exposure to body fluids), regardless of whether gloves are used.



Q. Should hands be cleaned with soap and water rather than cleansed with alcohol handrub after gloves are removed?

A. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines state that use of alcohol handrubs is ok after disposable gloves are used. The alcohol handrub supplier should advise whether their product will adversely impact on skin if used immediately after glove removal.



Q. Can alcohol be used on gloved hands?

A. No.  Staff should not use the alcohol handrub whilst gloves are on their hands. This will not replace the need for gloves to be changed. Also the integrity of the glove may be breached, posing an infection risk (the product supplier can advise on this).

The WHO guidelines make it clear that the use of gloves does not replace the need for hand cleaning by either handrub or handwashing. If alcohol handrubs are used after glove removal, it is very important that staff allow the alcohol to dry properly before donning gloves again.