Use, failure, and non-compliance of respiratory personal protective equipment and risk of upper respiratory tract infections-A longitudinal repeated measurement study during the COVID-19 pandemic among healthcare workers in Denmark

Karin Biering*, Martin Kinnerup, Christine Cramer, Annett Dalbøge, Else Toft Würtz, Anne Mette Lund Würtz, Henrik Albert Kolstad, Vivi Schlünssen, Esben Meulengracht Flachs, Kent J Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) are common and a common cause of sick-leave for healthcare workers, and furthermore pose a threat especially for patients susceptible to other diseases. Sufficient use of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) may protect both the workers and the patients. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a unique opportunity to study the association between use of RPE and URTI in a real-life setting. The aim of this study was to examine if failure of RPE or non-compliance with RPE guidelines increases the risk of non-COVID-19 URTI symptoms among healthcare workers.

METHODS: In a longitudinal cohort study, we collected self-reported data daily on work tasks, use of RPE, and URTI symptoms among healthcare workers with patient contact in 2 Danish Regions in 2 time periods during the COVID-19 pandemic. The association between failure of RPE or non-compliance with RPE guidelines and URTI symptoms was analyzed separately by generalized linear models. Persons tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 were censored from the analyses. The 2 waves of data collection were analyzed separately, as there were differences in recommendations of RPE during the 2 waves.

RESULTS: We found that for healthcare workers performing work tasks with a risk of transmission of viruses or bacteria, failure of RPE was associated with an increased risk of URTI symptoms, RR: 1.65[0.53-5.14] in wave 1 and RR: 1.30[0.56-3.03] in wave 2. Also non-compliance with RPE guidelines was associated with an increased risk of URTI symptoms compared to the use of RPE in wave 1, RR: 1.28[0.87-1.87] and wave 2, RR: 1.39[1.01-1.91]. Stratifying on high- versus low-risk tasks showed that the risk related to failure and non-compliance was primarily associated with high-risk tasks, although not statistically significant.

DISCUSSION: The study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic and thus may be affected by other preventive measures in society. However, this gave the opportunity to study the use of RPE in a real-life setting, also in departments that did not previously use RPE. The circumstances in the 2 time periods of data collection differed and were analyzed separately and thus the sample size was limited and affected the precision of the estimates.

CONCLUSION: Failures of RPE and non-compliance with RPE guidelines may increase the risk of URTI, compared to those who reported use of RPE as recommended. The implications of these findings are that the use of RPE to prevent URTI could be considered, especially while performing high-risk tasks where other prevention strategies are not achievable.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Work Exposures and Health
Volume68
Issue4
Pages (from-to)376-386
Number of pages11
ISSN2398-7308
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Keywords

  • cohort study
  • compliance
  • failures
  • health care workers
  • non-compliance
  • personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
  • upper respiratory tract infections (URTI)
  • work hazard
  • prevention
  • Guideline Adherence/statistics & numerical data
  • Pandemics
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Male
  • Respiratory Tract Infections/epidemiology
  • Denmark/epidemiology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Health Personnel/statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • COVID-19/prevention & control
  • Female
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Respiratory Protective Devices/statistics & numerical data

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