Health and medicine

Modern protective materials used in healthcare

Modern protective materials used in healthcare
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Protecting ourselves so that we can continue to help others is a priority for healthcare workers around the world. This includes being aware of and up-to-date on infection prevention and control measures, as well as the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE), hand hygiene and waste management of potentially harmful materials.

Types of personal protective equipment

Gloves: protect hands from microorganisms and minimize the possibility of spreading them.

Masks: some masks have a clear plastic piece that also covers the eyes (shield). A special breathing mask (respirator) fits tightly over the nose and mouth, and can be useful to minimize inhalation of smaller microorganisms such as tuberculosis bacteria. Another option is visors, such as a dental visor.

Eye protection: This includes face shields and goggles. They can protect the mucous membranes of the eyes from body fluids. If fluids come in contact with the eyes, microorganisms in the fluid can enter the body through these mucous membranes.

Clothing: includes gowns, headgear and shoe covers.

Medical gloves

Medical gloves are examples of personal protective equipment that is used to protect the wearer and/or patient from the spread of infection or disease during medical procedures and examinations. Medical gloves are part of an infection control strategy.

Gloves should be worn if you expect to be exposed to the following situations or substances:

  • Blood or other secretions.
  • Mucous membranes – mouth, nose, conjunctiva, rectum, genitals.
  • Damaged skin – wounds, surgical incisions.
  • Fixed device insertion site – urinary and intravenous catheter, feeding tube.
  • Potentially contaminated items in the environment.
  • Visibly soiled equipment, supplies, or bedding that may have come in contact with blood or body fluids.
  • Common equipment moving between different individuals.
Photo Gustavo Fring/Pexels

Face protection

Masks should completely cover the nose and mouth and prevent fluid penetration. They should fit tightly over the nose and mouth. Keep in mind that facial hair can damage the tightness of the mask. This should be especially considered by medical personnel if you must regularly wear a face mask in your workplace.

Masks also have an elastic piece to fit around the nose and can be attached to the head with cords or elastic bands. It is important to understand the different types of masks and their recommended use. Not all masks and filter masks provide the same protection and it is important to understand the uses and limitations of each.

A surgical face mask is a loose, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the wearer’s mouth and nose and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. These are often referred to as face masks, although not all face masks are considered surgical masks. Note that the edges of the mask are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth.


Insulating aprons are generally the preferred personal protective equipment for clothing. If contamination, such as of the arms, can be expected, an apron should be selected. They should completely cover the torso, fit snugly, and have long sleeves that fit snugly around the wrist.

Insulating aprons are made of cotton or spun synthetic material, which determines whether they can be washed and reused or whether they must be disposed of. Cotton and spun synthetic insulating aprons differ in their degree of fluid resistance, which is another factor to consider when choosing this type of PPE. If liquid permeation is likely, a liquid-resistant apron should be used.

Clean aprons are usually used as a precaution during isolation. Sterile aprons are only needed for invasive procedures. In this case, a sterile apron is best for both patient and healthcare worker protection. Waterproof aprons and gloves are recommended for contact protection.

Photo Pixabay

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