Personal Protection Equipment
All patients experiencing incontinence should be treated with respect to prevent embarrassment, but at the same time caregivers need to be protected against any pathogens that can be transmitted via human fluids. When handling waste in the course of changing absorbent clothing and bed linen or cleaning the patient, caregivers should wear effective personal protection equipment (PPE), particularly face masks and gloves. As part of overall infection control protocols, these help protect from pathogens spread through contact, droplet and airborne pathways.
Gloves Designed for Safety
Latex gloves have been used in medicine since the late 19th century, combining the safety of a sterile barrier with a thin, comfortable fit that allows dexterity. To prevent the latex material from sticking to itself during manufacturing, talc was originally used to powder the gloves; this material also helped the wearer put on and take off the gloves.
Because of the potential danger of causing clumping during surgery, cornstarch has now substituted talc. Some healthcare experts are concerned, however, that powder of any type presents the danger of increasing infections and allergic reactions.
Early in the 21st century, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NOISH) began to recommend the use of powder-free latex gloves with some patients. These are manufactured with a chlorination process that reduces the risk of allergies.
To address the potential for allergic reactions to latex among a minority of the population, nitrile gloves are an alternative that provides the same level of protection. By the nature of the material and being thicker than latex, they also offer greater resistance to punctures.
Comfortable, Effective Masks
To guard against inhalation of airborne pathogens, a face mask should be worn when in contact with human urine and feces in a home health care setting. They may also help protect the patient from exposure to the caregiver's saliva and exhaled respiratory secretions. Masks are available in a variety of thicknesses and filtration efficiency, ranging from general purpose to high filtration, with particulate respirators at the highest rating.
Styles for wearing these masks also vary, including ear loops, single-band and scarf masks that can be worn around the neck when not in use. Masks designated disposable should not be re-used and none should be shared.
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