Can Your Gloves Get You Sick?

Yesterday, on Good Morning America, I was asked to comment about the danger of the the flu virus attaching itself to the gloves we wear to keep our hands warm. I’ll jump at the chance to talk about the flu, which has killed more than 100 people including 20 children and has officially become an epidemic. There is much to say. For these short segments, a lot of questions are asked, and then a few soundbites are used. I love the opportunity to reach more people through television, but always wish I had a little more time to fully explain.

Here’s what I would’ve said if I were the actual star of the show and people wanted to see me for more than a few seconds:

The flu is very contagious, but it is most contagious person to person. Directly inhaling droplets from an infected person is the most common what to get the flu. That being said, the influenza virus can live on hard surfaces for hours to days. (The virus that causes the stomach bug can live even longer … ugh!) It will survive for a shorter period of time on more porous things, like tissues and fabric, anywhere from minutes to a few hours. So, when it comes to gloves, the flu won’t hang out there for very long, but that should not give us a false sense of security (that’s the most important thing I said that made the piece.)

If you touch a germy surface and touch your face, you can transmit the virus just as you would by touching your face with bare hands. The gloves though, give us a feeling of protection, but the protection is only against the cold. The germs will live long enough on your gloves to make you sick if you bring them close to your mouth and nose. It may surprise you to know the average person touches his or her face 2000 – 3000 times a day. Don’t even get me started on kids, and the wiping of noses on gloves and hands, and the spreading of germs. Little petri dishes that they are, trying to protect them from germs often seems like a losing battle. At least try to explain to them why it is important to keep their hands away from their face, especially in public. It also can’t hurt to wash your gloves once in a while, or use antiseptic wipes on the more waterproof kind that will hold onto the virus longer.

My three takeaways are:

  1. Don’t touch your face with potentially germs hands or gloves.
  2. Be mindful of spreading germs if you or your kids are sick.
  3. Defend against the flu from within by getting enough sleep, eating well, staying hydrated, exercising and fighting stress.

Here is the clip from GMA yesterday:

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, founder and president of Tips From Town. She loves combining all she learned as a doctor with all she continues to learn as a mom of five to bring you interesting, useful and fun information on the Family Pages.