PPE is everywhere these days. With the global rise of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, the whole world has gotten used to a “new normal”. Our pace of life has been drastically redefined – and so has the way we carry our social relationships. Governments all around the world set regulations for safe conduct that included the infamous 1.5 meters (or 6 feet) rule. “Social distancing” has quickly become the keyword of the past few months, and the good news is: it seems to work. Social distancing rules have shown to be effective in limiting the spread of the virus – but not everyone can keep a safe distance.

Healthcare workers, caretakers, and several “necessary workers” are stuck in a double bind – not able to keep their distance and not able to step away from their work. As a result, they are in a dangerous position. Often, their only choice is to protect themselves through PPE, in a time when the world is going through protective gear usage like never before. Which begs the question – yes, but what does PPE even stand for?

Staying Safe During This Global Pandemic

Before the current global pandemic, PPE (stands for Personal Protective Equipment) was a term most used in the workplace. Workers in hazardous jobs usually wear specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) clothing to protect them from harm. During coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, though, the term has exploded for a different reason.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Is for Anyone Who Has a Hazardous Job

Today, it’s usually used in reference to medical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), or gear protecting the wearer from exposure to infectious particles. And it works: healthcare providers have been using PPE since World War One for a reason. In years of protecting both doctors and patients, PPE has evolved in time following the needs of medical staff. There are several types of personal protective equipment worth knowing about.

Common Types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Healthcare

PPE: Face Masks

Possibly the most popular form of protective gear today, face masks are used by healthcare workers and the general population alike. The paper face masks usually styled by surgeons are surgical masks. They have the advantage of being light and breathable yet safe but are not supposed to be reused. For those worried about the environment, a more sustainable alternative can be cloth masks. This kind of face mask is more durable, as long as it’s washed and sanitized between uses – and it’s easy to make at home, too!

Medical staff with PPE face masks
Medical Staff with PPE Face Masks

Both kinds of masks target droplets emitted by breathing and talking; block them from traveling long distances. As a result, they serve mainly to safeguard other people’s health. Good news, though: recent studies have found that masks also protect the wearer. They help avoid virus inhalation and, if one gets exposed, often reduce coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Everybody wins!

PPE: Respirators

Respirator N 95
Respirator N-95

Respirators can be considered a step-up from face masks. If masks are effective with larger droplets, respirators (also known as N-95s) target smaller particles and aerosols as well. Being more tight-fitting, they do a better job of protecting the wearer – if worn correctly! To be properly used, respirators need to be fitted to the wearer by a professional. Due to this caveat, some studies cast doubt on the actual effectiveness of respirators when used by the public. Usage should thus be limited to medical staff- both for safety reasons, and to help face the current shortage of this kind of PPE.

PPE: Face Shields

PPE face mask and PPE face shield is best used together
PPE Face Mask and PPPE Face Shield Is Best Used Together

Eyes are an important point of entry for Covid19 too – and they can be protected with a face shield. They are composed of a panel made of transparent plastic or plexiglas, which is then secured to one’s face through a headband. They are not an alternative to masks – but they are still helpful. Medical sources are now recommending them to complement mask use.

PPE: Gloves

PPE Gloves
PPE Gloves

Out of all personal protective gear, gloves might be the trickiest of all. The correct use of gloves as PPE calls for throwing them out as soon as they get contaminated with the coronavirus – which may potentially mean: anytime you touch anything. Using them correctly in everyday lifeis hard, and thus they are best used by medical staff, who is often trained on how to  use and dispose of them.

PPE: Protective Gear for the Body

There are two main kinds commonly used by medical staff to protect their body: the gown and the coveralls.

Medical PPE Gown
Medical PPE Gown

The main difference is that the gown covers the torso and falls over the legs, but leaves head and calves uncovered.

Protective Coveralls
Protective Coveralls

Coveralls, on the other hand, completely insulate the wearer from any hazardous microorganisms.

Let’s Fight the PPE Shortage Together

The recent outburst of coronavirus (COVID-19) has put a strain on existing protective gear supplies (and suppliers). Both healthcare workers and the general population relied on PPE clothing to keep them safe. Thanks to time and novel approaches such as Emerson’s PPE manufacturing, the gap between supply and demand is slowly decreasing.

At the same time, there is still a tremendous need for PPE in numerous healthcare settings globally. PPE Needed is working to help healthcare settings to get the protective gear they need. If you want to contribute to the effort, consider donating to our GoFundMe – or get in touch on our website!