COVID-19 PPE: How to Properly Wear Each of Them

The COVID-19 pandemic caught most of the world off-guard. Some countries have fared well and have claimed to have already defeated the novel disease by being able to stop the transmission and curing the remaining active cases. On the other hand, a lot of countries are still either struggling to keep up with the effects of COVID-19 not only on the health sector but also the economy, or on the process of recovering from the impact of it.

As countries put their best efforts in formulating a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus--the virus causing the COVID-19 disease--what is left for the citizens to do as their part in preventing the further spread of this new virus? One of them is the proper use of protective gears called PPE.

But what are PPEs? What are the different types of PPEs? What is the proper PPE for each type of person? Here are the things you should know about PPEs, including how to wear them properly and what else you can do as your part in the fight against COVID-19 aside from using PPEs.

What is PPE?

PPE stands for personal protective equipment. In a general sense, a PPE is used for health and safety purposes. Other sectors make use of PPEs, too, such as the construction industry.

A piece of equipment is considered a PPE if it gives protection for the specific parts of the body with safety or health purposes in mind. In the construction industry, a few examples of PPE include hard hats, vests with hooks, and working boots, among others. In the medical world, PPEs for health purposes have different types, too. In the fight against COVID-19, there are specific PPEs that are recommended by the World Health Organization.

They are:

  1. Full PPE gear set
  2. Face mask/respirator
  3. Face shield

Who needs PPE?

Before discussing the different types of PPEs, it is important to know which one you need or would work best for you, as not all of them are optimal for everyone.

If you are a health worker--a nurse, a doctor, a hospital orderly, or anyone who deals with patients directly or indirectly--donning a full gear set of PPE is the best choice for you. This set is what is prescribed by the WHO through the Standard and Transmission-based Precautions. This is composed of an isolation gown that covers the entirety of the body and the limbs, with a NIOSH-approved N95 filtering respirator or mask, or a higher grade. In the absence of such, a medical-grade surgical mask can be worn as a replacement. Next is the face shield, which is usually an acetate film covering the face from splashes of droplets that may fly towards the face. The last part of this set is the surgical gloves that protect the hand.

For most common citizens, wearing a face-mask is often considered to be enough PPE, but the wearing of a face shield is sometimes recommended, too. Some people, on the other hand, also wear protective gloves, especially if they are to go you for essential tasks like doing the grocery.

How to put on complete PPE gear set

Most of the time, the donning and the doffing (or taking off) of a full gear PPEW set require assistance from another person. According to the CDC guidelines on wearing PPE, it is important to make sure that your hands have been thoroughly washed and sanitized before putting on any gear. The first you wear is the isolation gown, followed by your face mask or respirator, then your goggles or face shield, with your hand gloves as the last piece.

However, there is a proper way of wearing a face mask as well as face shield that everyone should know, not just health workers.

How to properly wear a face mask

The WHO, according to their guidelines in using a face mask, recommends the use of a medical-grade surgical mask. This is because this type of mask is specifically made to prevent any droplets coming from the user in dispersing, as well as any external droplets being inhaled by the mask user.

However, the WHO is also open to the use of fabric masks, so as long as it meets minimum health standards--that it has 3-ply layers, and is able to completely cover the areas of the nose down to the chin.

Initially, the wearing of face masks is recommended for people who are sick and those who are in direct contact with the sick. However, if a widespread community transmission has been established in an area, it may be imperative for the community to wear face masks--even those who have no established infection. This is to reduce the risk of further community transmission.

How to properly wear a face shield

As for face shields, a good face shield should be able to cover the entire face up to the sides. Since the main purpose of a face shield is to prevent droplets from landing to the user’s face, it is important that it is bigger than the face of the user.

Among many types of face shields, the HWO recommends the use of a face shield that has a thick foam hugging the forehead of the user, extending to the plastic or acetate film that covers the entire area of the face to the sides.

The bottom line

Wearing of PPE, even if done correctly, is never a definite assurance that you are fully protected against any viruses, not just SARS-CoV-2. While it does offer a huge layer of protection, the key to further ensuring that you do not catch the virus lies in the proper combination of good personal hygiene, the adequate wearing of applicable PPE, and strictly following health guidelines and protocols. For the proper and official health guidelines you have to follow, it is always a good idea to refer to the WHO and our local health department or health ministry.

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