Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, has always been the first line of defense for healthcare workers around the globe. However, with the spread of COVID-19, this essential tool for preventing the spread of disease has become more vital for protecting the general public.
There are a lot of questions surrounding PPE kits. And, with all of the constantly evolving information on personal health and safety, COVID-19, and various methods of preventing the spread of disease, it can be difficult to find concise, solid answers to your questions. In this article, we hope to solve that issue by presenting you with some of the most frequently asked questions about PPE and providing evidence-based answers, so you can make the right decision for your personal safety.
What is Personal Protective Equipment?
PPE gear includes masks, gloves, face shields, gowns, aprons and shoe covers that are used to prevent the spread of disease. They work by covering the skin, eyes, nose and mouth so that pathogens (germs, viruses and the like) are unable to make the leap from person to person.
The CDC is constantly updating its recommendations for PPE for use in non-medical environments. Masks are recommended for personal day-to-day use in low-risk environments, though healthcare workers often need additional PPE as they are in an environment where infection is more likely.
How Do I Know if PPE Is Safe and Effective?
The FDA has created a series of regulations to ensure personal protective equipment is safe and effective. For PPE, these standards may include fluid resistance, leak protection, filtering capacity or resistance to tears and snags. There are specific standards set for various types of equipment so that manufacturers have a reliable guide on the FDA’s expectations.
Though this equipment has become more popular for personal use due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to note that PPE creates a barrier that is not specific to any particular disease. Therefore, you are able to protect yourself from a variety of airborne pathogens with PPE.
Where Can I Buy PPE?
Medical supply companies like AADCO are offering their equipment to the public for purchase, ensuring you get PPE that is in line with FDA regulations. Many pharmacies, grocery stores, and small businesses also sell basic PPE that is sufficient for use in low-risk environments.
Should I Buy Disposable PPE or Reusable PPE?
There are many reusable face coverings on the market that are being sold as PPE. However, it is important to note that FDA regulations only allow for some personal protective equipment to be reusable. Goggles, face shields and some types of respirators are able to be decontaminated and reused.
However, the most common PPE item for public use is the surgical mask. It’s important to note that surgical masks should not be reused, and are considered contaminated after coming into contact with fluids or infectious materials (such as contaminated breath droplets from an ill person). Contaminated masks, safety gloves, aprons and the like should be safely disposed of immediately. If you have questions about reusing ppe materials, head to the CDC website for a list of approved items.
Can I Wash Disposable PPE?
In short, no. Only PPE that is deemed reusable (such as face shields, goggles and certain respirators) can be disinfected and worn again. All disposable PPE must be safely disposed of after coming into contact with infectious materials (this includes breath droplets from sick or potentially sick individuals). Washing disposable PPE can cause it to wear down, snag or tear — which can render it ineffective. Washing may also not be sufficient to decontaminate the equipment, leading to possible infection.
What Is the Best PPE to Buy? How Can I Best Protect Myself?
The kind of PPE that is appropriate for you is determined by your situation. PPE is intended to be used in conjunction with hand washing, decontamination, and other best health practices to prevent the spread of disease. In low-risk environments, lighter levels of protection can be worn. If you are frequently in contact with sick individuals, as a healthcare worker or something similar, then more layers may need to be worn.
You can determine how effective a particular PPE item is by determining how thoroughly it has been tested. Check the NIOSH Personal Protective Equipment Information database for more information on standards for particular items.
AADCO Has the Personal Protective Equipment to Keep You Safe
If you are looking to keep yourself and others safe from disease, including COVID-19, it’s smart to invest in some good personal protective equipment and disinfectants. Check out AADCO for surgical masks, N95s, face shields, disinfectants and more.