Stock Up on PPE Supplies for Your Family or Business
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, has been in high demand because of COVID-19. As a respiratory infection, COVID-19 is primarily spread when a person coughs or sneezes tiny droplets into the air. Those droplets create an aerosol cloud that the next person could inhale. Some droplets might also settle onto surfaces, such as credit card touchpads or shopping carts. Depending on what you do and where you go, you may need a variety of PPE. At a minimum, the CDC recommends that everyone wear face masks and frequently wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.
The Importance of PPE
PPE is worn in doctor's offices, hospitals, laboratories, and outdoor testing locations. Its purpose is to protect the healthcare worker or technician from getting contaminated with infectious bodily fluids, while also protecting everyone else they come into contact with. If too many healthcare workers get sick, there will not be enough of them to care for people infected with COVID-19 or other people who need medical care. This is why the CDC recommends different types of FDA-regulated PPE for medical workers, as well as proper disposal of used PPE.
Face masks are designed to stop a person's respiratory droplets from creating an aerosol cloud. If you cough or sneeze while wearing a face mask, the mask will absorb the droplets. Something as innocuous as laughing, talking, or singing can also infect others, since these acts aerosolize respiratory droplets as well.
There are several grades of face masks. Surgical masks prevent you from spreading germs, and they stop some germs from getting into your nose or mouth. The N95 masks are even more effective at preventing germs from getting into your nose or mouth. As their name suggests, they prevent 95% of viruses from passing through the material. These are usually reserved for health care workers who perform direct patient care.
Respiratory therapists, surgeons and others performing invasive procedures should use face shields. OSHA guidelines may also recommend this for workers caring for known COVID-19 cases. This type of medical equipment looks like a motorcycle helmet with a longer transparent acrylic piece that extends past the person's chin. You have a full range of vision, but no fluids or droplets can get into your eyes, nose or mouth. You can wear your regular glasses under the face shield.
A lesser known fact, the virus that causes COVID-19—SARS coronavirus covariant-2—can infect a person with direct contact to the eyes. Other viruses are also known to do this, including the ebolaviruses. Goggles are one way to protect your eyes. They feature an elastic strap that fits snugly around the back of your head. The goggles extend about two inches out from your face, giving you plenty of peripheral vision. Face shields are another piece of medical equipment that deliver eye protection.
Public health nurses, intensive care nurses, respiratory therapists and surgeons may benefit from a full set of PPE that includes clothing. The types of PPE clothing many direct care providers have been wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic include aprons, head coverings, gowns and shoe coverings. Surgeons wear PPE clothing when operating on patients. Visitors may be asked to wear this type of PPE if they are visiting a person with a highly infectious disease. Janitors, aides and registered nurses in long-term care settings and hospitals may wear these garments in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to sensitive individuals, such as those with severe lung disease and the elderly.