Will Expired Gloves Protect You from COVID-19?


On the 9th of January 2020, CDC officials based in China reported that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a cluster of pneumonia-like cases that were reported in the closing weeks of 2019.The symptoms associated with the virus involved victims experiencing difficulties with their respiratory functions.

Swift research by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization found that the disease spread through contact and respiratory droplets.

As of March 2020, the virus had spread to 114 countries, leaving over 4,000 people dead. This prompted the WHO to declare the virus a pandemic. Ever since, the use of personal protective equipment (PPEs) has been the focus of intense, sometimes fierce, debate across many countries across the world.

From wearing masks to using sanitizer, people have had to adopt certain measures to protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus. However, the one thing experts and professionals have not clashed over is the importance and use of gloves for protection against the coronavirus.

Although wearing gloves to protect yourself from the coronavirus is not as effective as following appropriate hand hygiene measures, as PPE, gloves are critical especially in the medical field.

But because of the shelf life that gloves have as compared to other PPEs such as hazmat suits and surgical masks, there is a natural concern regarding the efficiency of gloves once they are past their sell-by date.

Here’s all you need to know about gloves, their shelf life, and how they work to protect people against possible coronavirus infections.

What Are the Different Types of Gloves

The truth is gloves are not created equal. They are made differently depending on the purpose they are intended to serve. They can either be disposable or multi-use. They also differ according to size and thickness; factors that have affected the level of protection provided by the glove.

There are gloves meant for public use that are made from nitrile, latex, or vinyl. However, they do not meet the standards required for use in healthcare settings. Medical gloves are used in healthcare provision settings during various procedures to prevent the possible spread of Covid-19 between patients and healthcare workers.

There are three kinds of medical gloves namely medical-grade, examination, and surgical. However, it’s important to differentiate between sterile and non-sterile medical gloves which are both used in healthcare settings. Sterile medical gloves are used during surgical operations whereas non-sterile medical gloves are mostly used in handling equipment.

Does the Shelf Life of Gloves Affect Their Efficiency

Many people buy disposable gloves in bulk but tend to leave them in storage for quite a while. When they get down to actually using the gloves, they’re rarely sure whether they will offer the same level of protection as they would when they manufactured. This is something that people should really consider especially now during the era of Covid-19.

When it comes to glove shelf life, how well the glove works is dependent on how the product is stored as well as the material that was used to make the glove. For instance, gloves made out of natural latex tend to have an average shelf life of 3 years.

Nitrile gloves, on the other hand, tend to have a much longer shelf life. They can be used as far as 5 years since the date of manufacture and if stored well enough, even longer. However, no manufacturer would guarantee a glove stored for longer than 5 years can help protect the wearer from getting infected with the coronavirus.

Other situations that could affect the efficiency of gloves is if the product package seal has been tampered with or if the gloves have been removed from their packaging and exposed to moisture. Exposing gloves to ultraviolet light or storing them in places with temperatures exceeding 90° F can also affect the gloves’ shelf life.

If the gloves look and feel normal and can be pulled or stretched without breaking and tearing, then they can probably offer the same level of protection as when they were made.

Expired gloves will show signs of deterioration such as developing surface cracks or tears when stretched. If the gloves are powdered but have no separate donning layer, then the interior of the glove could have a gooey substance

How to Store Latex and Nitrile Gloves

To make good use of the long shelf life of any kind of gloves, make sure they’re stored away from steam pipes or radiators.

They should be kept in a dark and cool environment. This is especially critical for gloves made out of natural rubber such as latex and nitrile gloves. These gloves are vulnerable to deterioration if exposed to ultraviolet light or ozone which is produced by motors as well as electrical equipment.

Arguments Against the Wearing of Gloves To Prevent COVID-19

Some experts have spoken against people wearing gloves to prevent getting infected by the coronavirus. They’ve proceeded to argue that gloves are not adequate for complete protection and may lead to dermatological side effects since some people are allergic to latex.

Perhaps the claim that holds water the most is that glove-wearing gives a false sense of security. Since there are certain protocols industry experts follow to avoid getting infected, these processes are not public.

Healthcare workers are trained on how to wear and dispose of gloves safely as PPEs. The risk of transmission or cross-contamination is high with gloves thus rendering wearing them almost counterproductive.

Final Thoughts: Are Gloves Effective in Protecting People Against COVID-19

With new information emerging about how Covid-19 spreads and works, people are getting in-depth insight into how much protection is provided by different types of PPE. Businesses and people alike are loading up on disposable gloves to protect themselves from infection.

As of August 2020, nearly 25 million people around the world were infected with the fatalities exceeding 800,000. One important fact that most people are not aware of is that gloves do not protect against the Covid-19’s primary mode of infection. What they will do is protect you from the secondary transmission.

Primary transmission involves disease-causing bacteria somehow finding their way into your sinuses. The secondary mode of infection involves contact through touching a contaminated surface. Fortunately, secondary transmission cases are not as frequent as the primary.

Whether or not you choose to wear gloves, you should make it a habit to sanitize your hands numerously as you go about your day. Hand hygiene is currently the best way of fighting the spread of the virus.