The ongoing community quarantine advises us to head outside only for essential purposes. For many of us, this means visiting the grocery or drugstore once in a while to stock up on supplies. But even though going outside is a rare occurrence, people have been putting a lot of thought into what their attire should be like as a means to protect themselves from contracting the coronavirus.
The last time I visited the grocery (about two weeks ago), people were wearing casual clothes. Their only protective gear were face masks and gloves. However, there have been people who have completely bundled up—think raincoats or dri-fit jackets with hoods up their heads, and latex or rubber gloves to complete the look.
Is covering up necessary though? If not, what does one need to wear when heading outside? We explore this below:
How is the virus transmitted?
Let’s start with the primary concern at hand: contracting the virus. According to the World Health Organization, virus transmission occurs in two ways: through direct contact with an infected individual, 2) and respiratory droplets from the infected individual. These droplets may also land on surfaces and contaminate them. That said, “the immediate environment of an infected individual can serve as a source of transmission (contact transmission).” Masks are required in public to avoid transmitting diseases from an infected individual to a healthy person, as well as for the healthy person to protect themselves from respiratory droplets.
Do you need to be all covered up?
There are no studies yet about the effectiveness of clothes as protection from the coronavirus, in a community setting, that is. Perhaps it is the aforementioned reason that spurs people to cover up: People think clothes act as a shield from direct contact and respiratory droplets. This has yet to be explored by experts, but if there’s one article of clothing that most of them deem unnecessary, it’s gloves.
“You can think about wearing gloves, but unless you’re really experienced with putting gloves on and off, you may actually contaminate your hands more and therefore get a false sense of security,” says Karen Hoffmann, a registered nurse and past president of The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology in the United States. In other words, if you don’t know how to discard gloves after using them, they can serve as breeding grounds for the virus.
The same goes for your clothes whether you’re covered up or not—you’re only as safe as how scrupulous you are when it comes to sanitary removal upon returning home and doing your laundry.
Does it matter what kind of fabric you wear?
Again, transmission occurs through direct contact and droplets from sick people. Experts say that transmission from clothes is highly unlikely: “It is possible that if your clothes are contaminated with the virus and you touch the contaminated area of your clothes with your hand and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, you could become infected with the virus. However, this is unlikely to be a common mode of transmission unless you are in high-risk settings, like healthcare workers,” says Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine who specializes in tropical medicine and infectious diseases.
We know that the virus can contaminate surfaces like metal, plastic, and even fruits and vegetables but this—so far—doesn’t apply to clothes. “Clothing is not considered a material conducive to its survival,” according to Healthline. In a word, you don’t have to worry about what material your clothes are made of. You don’t have to panic when you accidentally brush against someone else’s outfit, either—it happens.
What’s the ultimate takeaway here?
US-based physician Dr. David Cutler shares with Heathline that gloves may not be the best way to protect yourself, but they do send a message that you’re taking extra precautions for yourself and everyone around you. Heading out all covered up in clothes sends the same message, and being hyper-aware is better than not taking precautions at all. Just remember to clean up properly. Hygiene and social distancing are still the most important things you should do for protection.
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