Coronavirus Special Coverage

A collection of news posted throughout the week for those that want signal, not noise.

  • Previous coverage - all of our posts in this ongoing series.
  • Coronavirus status page - learn how to prepare for possible spread to your area. Scenarios, shopping lists, background info and everything else you need, all in one place.

How to safely put on and remove personal protective equipment like masks & gloves

It’s easy to make a mistake when putting on (donning) or taking off (doffing) personal protective equipment (PPE). The protection that PPE gives you disappears immediately if you put it on wrong, so it’s important to put your protective equipment on in the correct manner. Even more important is learning how to take your PPE off in the correct order. If you don’t follow the proper steps boy while donning and doffing the PPE, you can (and probably will) contaminate yourself and your surroundings.

Clinicians are trained in donning and doffing their equipment, but for those folks at home using PPE for the first time, we’ll share some guidelines with you. Here’s the sequence (PDF), recommended by the CDC, by which you put on and then take off your PPE.

Here’s the same sequence in English and Spanish.

Here’s a video demonstrating the techniques:

In the video, the clinician sanitized her hands in the middle of doffing her PPE. It’s not totally necessary that you do this at home, but it’s not a bad idea either, especially if you tend to roll the gown down your arms during doffing.

Different supplies call for different techniques

If you only have a mask and gloves:

  1. Remove the gloves,
  2. take off the mask (as you see done in the video),
  3. and wash your hands.

If you’re able, you should also wash your hands or use an alcohol-based sanitizer before removing your mask. You’ll need to sanitize your hands one more time after removing the mask.

If you have a mask, goggles or face shield, and gloves:

  1. Remove your gloves,
  2. take off the shield or goggles,
  3. remove your mask,
  4. and wash hands.

If you don’t have gloves, don’t fret. Even after gloves are removed, hands are treated as if contaminated in the doffing process. You should still be able to easily follow the above techniques and order. Just skip the glove removal.

Important reminders

Hand hygiene is the most important thing you can do, and it is imperative that you sanitize both before and after using PPE.

Also essential is keeping your hands off your face. Having a mask won’t help you if you touch your face mindlessly with contaminated hands. If you’re wearing a mask, don’t touch your mask once you’ve checked it for proper fit.

If you have a beard and need to wear an N95, it could be time to consider shaving your face. N95 masks become less effective when facial hair breaks the seal against the face. It’s not necessary to shave your face with a surgical/procedure mask.

Follow the doffing techniques carefully once you get inside, and remember that everything that touches the outside should be considered contaminated.