Are your gloves and scarves swarming with germs?
The cold weather is here, and many are reaching for their scarves, hats and gloves as they head outdoors each morning.
As a result, gloves come in contact with doorknobs, elevator buttons, shopping carts and cell phones, and a scarf is often used to shield a sneeze or cough from others.
While hand washing after coughing or touching germy surfaces may be second nature, many forget to pass this habit on to their gloves, which touch the same objects.
“Wash your gloves and scarves on a weekly basis or when soiled,” says Sinthuya Selvendrarajah, infection prevention coordinator at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “Although there is no evidence-based studies to validate this, our gloves serve as our hands during the winter months.”
Depending on the germ and what winter clothing items the germ comes in contact with, the organism may live for hours or even days. They can then get the individual wearing the gloves or scarves sick, and wherever the gloves or mittens go they can cross-contaminate other surfaces, which can cause other people to get ill.
Since many gloves, scarves and hats are made of delicate fabrics and may need to be dry-cleaned or hand-washed, Selvendrarajah suggests having more than one go-to scarf and a few pair of warm gloves. This is the best solution when there’s already a set in the wash.
She offers additional advice for preventing the spread of germs during the winter months:
- Don’t use your teeth or mouth to take off your gloves.
- If your gloves or scarves get wet, lay them flat to completely dry before you store them away.
- Try to always carry hand sanitizer with you and wash your hands before putting on your gloves.
- Use a moisturizer to keep your skin soft and smooth.
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