‘Hands of love’: Warm latex gloves mimic human touch for COVID-19 patients in Brazil

April 21, 2021 - 2:37 PM
Nursing technician Semei Araujo Cunha puts what she calls 'maozinha do amor' or 'hands of love', warm water-filled gloves, on a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient intubated at a UPA (Emergency Service Unit) in Sao Carlos, Sao Paulo state, Brazil April 16, 2021. Picture taken April 16, 2021. (Reuters/Amanda Perobelli)

SAO CARLOS, Brazil — The fight against COVID-19 is a lonely one with patients forced into isolation in intensive care wards, removed from family and friends.

But two nurses in the small city of Sao Carlos, in Sao Paulo state, have discovered a way to help with a millimeter of latex and some warm water that mimics a human touch.

Semei Araújo Cunha and Vanessa Formenton improvised the technique they call “little hands of love” while working in the Santa Felicia Emergency Care Unit.

They fill latex medical gloves with warm water in a hospital shower, tying them off like water balloons.

Cunha demonstrated how she puts the gloves on an unconscious man fighting for his life against COVID-19, placing one glove on each side of the hand.

“The patient feels comforted as if someone were holding hands with them,” Formenton said.

The man is one of several patients sharing a small hospital room, each person hooked to an array of machines tracking their vitals with a cacophony of beeps and alarms.

The two nurses developed the method about a month ago, as the current brutal surge in COVID-19 was gaining speed. Brazil is now leading the world in daily average COVID-19 deaths and is second only to the United States in total death toll.

Warming patients hands has several benefits beyond the emotional support it can provide, they say, including increased blood flow.

Cold hands can result in incorrect readings of patients’ blood oxygen levels, falsely showing that oxygen levels are low. The gloves ensure that doesn’t happen.

Hospitals around the city are now using the technique, with staff praising the “hands of love” for delivering immediate results.

“It’s unbelievable that you can see how fast the change in the patient is, it’s magnificent,” Cunha said.

—Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Andrea Ricci