Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Together with good hygiene and waste management, personal protective equipment (PPE) is vital in the fight against COVID-19. PPE consists of specialised apparel which is manufactured and regulated to a standard that will protect healthcare workers from infectious diseases. 

The CDC issues guidelines for what PPE should be used to prevent exposure to infectious diseases.

Types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

To ensure medical PPE is as safe and effective as possible, the FDA has published Quality Systems Regulations and Good Manufacturing Practices. Manufacturers of PPE are expected to refer to these regulations and ensure that all products conform to the standard. 

For PPE, these standards include fluid resistance, leak protection, filtering capacity, and resistance to tears and snags. At the very least, PPE gear for medical staff includes a mask, gown and pair of gloves. With airborne infections and highly contagious diseases such as COVID-19, additional measures may include goggles and/or a face shield, headcovers and shoe covers. 

When to wear PPE Apparel 

The WHO distinguishes different levels of risk in terms which affect the approach to PPE. Hand hygiene must always be followed in all four instances, in addition to:

  • Standard Precautions: Any staff conducting triage and any patient with suspected COVID-19 should wear a face mask.
  • Contact and Droplet Precautions: Suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 not involving AGPs require that a surgical mask, gown, goggles and gloves be worn.
  • Airborne Precautions: Suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 admitted to a healthcare facility and AGP requires a respirator mask, gown, goggles and gloves be worn.
  • Collection of Specimens for Laboratory Diagnosis: If undertaken via an AGP, a respirator mask, gown, goggles, gloves to be worn plus additional precautions should be taken.

How to put on PPE Apparel 

Putting on PPE effectively is important to offer the best protection to the wearer and patients confirmed with or suspected of COVID-19. 

  • Gather the necessary PPE and perform hand hygiene.
  • Don isolation gown and secure all fastenings (assistance may be required).
  • Apply N95 respirator mask or equivalent. If the respirator has a nosepiece, it should be fitted to the nose with both hands. A mask should cover the chin, nose and mouth.
  • Affix face shield and/or goggles and head cover. 
  • Perform hand hygiene once more and then apply gloves.

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