As the COVID-19 pandemic expands globally, the supply chain for personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, continues to be stressed, as demand exceeds available supplies. Given that gloves and other PPE are currently on allocation, crisis or alternate strategies may be necessary if medical gloves are running low or not available.
For medical professionals and others who typically use gloves but are not dealing with COVID-19 patients, there may be some wiggle room on glove use, freeing up the constraint on gloves. The first thing to do is to refer to the CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings1.
The next thing is to understand that we are facing what the CDC refers to as “surge capacity,” or the need to manage a “sudden, unexpected increase in patient volume that would otherwise severely challenge or exceed the present capacity of a facility.”2 Three general levels of capacity include:
- Conventional (usual standard in infection prevention and healthcare settings)
- Contingency (small but insignificant impact on patient care)
- Crisis (strategies not commensurate with standard U.S. care and may be considered during glove shortages)
These strata can be used to prioritize glove supply conservation along the continuum of care. If your facility has undergone the necessary assessments and provisions, deeming it necessary to adopt contingency or crisis capacity plans, you may need some helpful tips to manage and extend the life of your gloves.
Here are five conservation strategies for your glove supply during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Expiration dates need not always apply, according to the CDC2 and the FDA3. Use medical gloves beyond the manufacturer-designated shelf life in situations or settings where there is a lower risk of transmission (for example, around non-surgical, non-sterile patients or individuals with no known COVID 19 diagnosis). You should always inspect the gloves prior to use and, if there are discolorations, stains, visible tears or holes, discard the gloves.
- No need to change between patients without infectious diseases. Extend the use of medical gloves by not changing your gloves between patients with no known infectious diseases or when patients with the same infectious disease diagnosis are cohorted2. Gloved hands should always be cleaned between patients and at other times when hand hygiene would normally be performed during routine patient care. Be aware, though, that alcohol-based hand sanitizers may degrade vinyl gloves. If a glove becomes damaged—through holes, tears, damage or discoloration; contaminated by body fluids or chemotherapy drugs; or if it is clear that they no longer provide a barrier to liquids, please replace it.
- Consider using reusable surgeon’s gloves. Radioactive protective gloves or radiation attenuating surgeon’s gloves also offer fluid barrier protection. These gloves cannot be sterilized but can be cleaned following the manufacturer’s labeling. These are meant to be reused, if they are not damaged, with proper cleaning protocol.