Besides social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing has become among the chief form of self-protection to slow the spread of COVID-19. But while everyone is trying to be better about frequently washing their hands, are they giving their jewelry the same treatment?

Medical professionals have long avoided wearing jewelry on their hands in sanitized environments. Wearing rings and keeping our hands clean and less likely to spread infection has been studied over the years, especially with regards to surgical wounds and scrubbing before surgery, Most surgical suites have rules that prohibit the use of rings or even nail polish out of concern for bacteria embedding in microscopic imperfections in jewelry or chipped nail polish.

However, some studies have shown that rings are cleaned with hands when washed with soap and water or hand sanitizer. And the standards for health care professionals will always be higher than the general public. It is routine practice in the health care environment for us to maintain every aspect of hygiene possible by reducing and eliminating any possible reservoir for infection. Most surgeons, doctors and nurses will wear their jewelry on a necklace or tied to their scrubs during procedures.

Of course, it is referring to were performed on bacteria — not viruses. Viruses are much smaller than bacteria and could potentially linger.

Skin irritation poses risks

All the additional hand washing and sanitizer use can cause skin irritation when paired with jewelry, potentially leaving you more vulnerable to infection. Although your ring may not be transferring viruses around after washing, if there are tiny cracks or breaks in your skin that are perhaps concentrated around your jewelry, then you may be leaving yourself more susceptible to viruses attaching to your skin after contact with potentially infected surfaces.

Should we give our rings and bracelets a vacation?

It’s a good time to consider giving jewelry a break for a while. Avoiding jewelry on the hands and wrists is a way to minimize irritation to the skin that can leave it more susceptible to viruses as well as decrease the surfaces that viruses can attach to. But for people who don’t want to stop wearing their jewelry, there are ways to keep rings clean without compromising safety or ruining jewelry.