Can Coronavirus Protective Gowns Be Used More Than Once ?

All the healthcare workers (HCWs) treating patients that are infected with the contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) are definitely at risk of infection themselves. To protect themselves, they use personal protective equipment (PPE) to stay safe from all droplets from coughs, sneezes, or body fluids coming from infected patients and contaminated surfaces that might infect them with the virus.

Coronavirus also spreads through droplets that people touch and then transfer to mucous membranes. Isolation/protective gowns can decrease transmission by protecting and keeping those droplets from staying on the clothing that healthcare workers will later come in contact with. 

The PPE they use may include goggles, gowns, coveralls (a one-piece suit), gloves, aprons, masks, and breathing equipment (respirators). To work effectively, PPE must be worn properly; even though it might be uncomfortable to wear, but healthcare workers may get infected if they decide to remove it due to the discomfort it causes. 

Protective gowns or isolation gowns shields the clothing of health care workers from getting contaminated. It also helps protect visitors and patients because they prevent the transfer of microorganisms, droplets, and body fluids from an infected patient in isolation situations. 

World Health Organization (WHO) recommends gowns, not aprons, for both Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs) and non-AGPs in all circumstances apart from the initial triage. For contact and droplet precautions, they recommended "a clean, non-sterile, long-sleeved gown" and also gloves. For the AGPs, the WHO guidance states that: "wear a clean, non-sterile, long-sleeved gown and gloves." In case the gowns are non-fluid resistant, healthcare workers should make use of a waterproof apron for procedures that are expected to create high volumes of fluid that may penetrate the gown." 

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that protective/isolation gowns are essential during aerosol-generating procedures, delivery of high-contact care, and any situation where contagious fluids easily splash.

Currently, both reusable and disposable isolation/protective gowns are in short supply. This situation has caused some healthcare workers to wear disposable gowns more than once or even settle for white coats and even trash bags as protection against the virus. Organizations that obtain PPE for healthcare workers have seen a huge increase in the demand for isolation/protective gowns as the pandemic lengthens and other elective surgeries have started in some places.

For hospital facilities experiencing PPE shortages, the CDC recommends the reusing of disposable gowns, either by the same healthcare provider with several COVID-19 patients or different healthcare providers for a patient, before sorting for a new protective gown. Currently, neither the CDC nor any other public health authority has delivered guidance on how to decontaminate protective gowns, as they have for face masks.

Conclusion:

Gowns are critical elements of the PPE as they are the second-most used item of PPE, after gloves and masks, in the healthcare environment. According to the Prevention’s Guideline for Isolation Precautions, isolation gowns are worn to protect arms and other exposed body areas during patient-care activities when in contact with clothing, bodily fluids, blood, excretions, and secretions. 

The need and type of isolation gown are based on the nature of the patient interaction, which includes the expected degree of contact with contagious material and potential for blood and body fluid penetration of the barrier, the predicted volume of body fluids and other liquids, also the duration of procedure or activity is important to include. 

Today isolation gowns are currently available in the market and give varying resistance to blood and other bodily fluids depending on the kind of material, its wear & tear, and impermeability. It is essential to note that gowns are intended to prevent blood-borne transmission, not an airborne transmission.

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