We have heard versions of this question from many of our clients who are wondering why hand hygiene is so important both before and after glove use. If you clean your hands before putting on your gloves, and they aren’t torn at the end of a procedure, surely your hands are still clean when you take your gloves off, right? The truth is that since glove use naturally produces a warm and moist environment between the glove and your skin, any residual microorganisms on your skin have the perfect conditions to grow and multiply. This means that the chances are high that you have a greater number of living bacteria on your skin by the time you remove your gloves than you did when you donned them, hence the need for hand hygiene after doffing.
Other ways contamination can be on your hands after performing a task, despite wearing gloves, can include:
- Hand sanitizers and soaps aren’t perfect, and neither are we. The areas underneath our fingernails and between our fingers often have greater numbers of organisms than other areas of our hands, and these areas are among the most missed areas when performing hand hygiene. These microorganisms can grow and multiply more rapidly than normal during glove use.
- The gloves themselves may not be perfect. Although we often think of gloves as a great barrier against contamination, they only help. The material may have microscopic holes which are too small to see, but large enough for bacteria, viruses, fluids, and other contamination to pass through. Some glove materials are also naturally less resistant to chemical and fluid permeation, so contaminated material can sometimes find their way into gloves that are in perfect condition.
- The gloves might be contaminated. Although they are manufactured in clean environments, they are not sterile and they may become exposed to droplets, splash, spray, or humidity during storage. This can transfer to your hands when you don the gloves. Equally, if the last person to grab a pair of gloves didn’t do their hand hygiene properly, they may have contaminated other gloves in the box that you might now use.