Personal protective equipment, or PPE, has become big news lately with the COVID-19 pandemic. Everywhere you go, from shopping centres to the office or schools, people are spraying hand sanitiser, wearing masks and gloves, and trying to avoid spreading the virus. This is great news – but it’s important to know how to use PPE properly, or you could actually reduce the level of protection you are getting. Here’s some advice to clarify the role of different PPE items and how to use them, whether you are going to the shops or treating someone experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) or medical emergency.
Nitrile rubber gloves, the type you see medical and emergency services personnel using, are one of the most easily mis-used items of PPE. They need to be used properly and disposed of properly to be effective.
When wearing disposable gloves, germs and fluids won’t get on your hands because they create an impenetrable physical barrier. However, germs and fluids will still get onto the outside of the gloves, so if you touch your face, another person or an item, you will transfer whatever is on your gloves to whatever you touch. They are not antibacterial or antiviral, and cannot kill the virus or any germ. It’s therefore critical to not touch your face or body or anyone else at all while wearing nitrile rubber gloves, and to sanitise anything you do touch, including items and surfaces.
To remove your gloves, pinch the outside of the one glove at the wrist with the thumb and forefinger of your other gloved hand. Peel the glove off and crumple it inside your other still-gloved hand. Slide the index finger of your un-gloved hand into the remaining glove, peeling it off over the crumbled glove so that the one is contained within the other. Only use the gloves once and wash your hands for 30 seconds with soap and water after.
Do not dispose of your gloves anywhere other than a bin. These gloves are environmental waste and discarding them any other way is damaging to the environment, can put wildlife at risk, and can spread the virus.
There are a few different types of masks you can use to protect yourself from the virus, each providing different levels of protection and needing different care.
- 3-ply masks – Also known as surgical masks, these are the ones you usually see on medical staff like nurses, surgeons and dentists. They are inexpensive but can only be used once before you need to dispose of them in a bin, so they can become impractically expensive and environmentally wasteful over time. Do not try wash and reuse them.
- Cloth masks – You can make a cloth mask at home or buy one, and they are a good option for everyday use as they are washable and removable. Don’t share your cloth mask with anyone else, and wash with soap and water before reusing. They are most effective if they fit snugly, are 3 layers thick and made of thick cotton fabric.
- N95 masks – These should be reserved for medical workers and those on the frontlines as they provide a high level of protection when dealing with patients and people sick with COVID-19.
- KN95 masks – These are an alternative when K95 masks are not available, as they offer the same level of protection. Again, these should be reserved for medical workers and those on the frontline.
While washing your hands with soap and warm water for 30 seconds is still the most effective way to keep hands hygienic, hand sanitiser is a good alternative when soap and water are not available. To be effective, a hand sanitiser should contain 70% or more alcohol.
To use a hand sanitiser correctly, rub it thoroughly over your hands and in between fingers and let it dry. It’s important to keep it away from small kids and pets, as it is harmful if consumed.
Even if you have used hand sanitiser, do not touch your face or others. Always wash your hands with soap and water when it becomes available, as hand sanitiser is not quite as effective.
PPE for Treating Sudden Cardiac Arrest
It is important to use PPE and to use it correctly if you are assisting someone who has had a SCA or any other medical emergency. In your automatic external defibrillator (AED) kit or first aid kit, you should have a few sets of new surgical masks and disposable gloves.
In the event of a SCA, call Triple Zero (000). You (and anyone assisting you) should wash your hands thoroughly if possible and use hand sanitiser if water and soap is not available. Put on the mask and gloves before treating the person, or you run the risk of spreading the virus to one another.
The AED will instruct you on how to perform safe bystander CPR (no mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing) and how to apply the life-saving shock. After emergency services arrive, remove the PPE as instructed above and dispose of it safely in a bin, followed by washing your hands and clothes thoroughly to ensure no moisture droplets have been transferred.
Automated External Defibrillators and Defibrillator Training in Australia
Knowing how to react and act safely to a SCA during COVID-19 is critical to keeping you, the patient and other bystanders safe. At DefibsPlus, our team can assist you with PPE for your AED kit, new AED kits and replacement parts at affordable prices.
We also offer comprehensive AED training to help you act with confidence within that critical life-saving window of time. For more information on defibrillators and defibrillator training, please contact us today. Together, we can save lives.