1.4.2 The Origins of PPE

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as we know it today is a relatively modern invention, but we can still learn a lot from exploring the history of PPE. This exploration is valuable to us because it helps us understand that PPE should always be evolving as our medical knowledge expands. As a health care professional, be sure to speak up if you think of ways to improve PPE usage in daily practice.

Did You Know?

Some scholars argue that modern PPE originated during World War One as a means to prevent contamination from chemical warfare. The use of respirators allowed soldiers to protect themselves from toxic chemicals. Leonardo da Vinci is thought to be the original inventor of the respirator during the 16th century.

For further information read “The Role of Personal Protective Equipment in Infection Prevention History.”

Watch this video, “From Plague Doctor to PPE: A Brief History of Pandemic Protection Gear” (12:46) for factual information on the history of PPE as we know it today:

Click here to download a video transcript in .docx format: Video Transcript

Practice Makes Perfect

After watching the video above, you should understand that PPE evolves alongside our growing understanding of pathogens and how they spread. Try to answer the following questions in your notes:

  • In your opinion, does today’s PPE address the needed elements of infection control?
  • How would you improve today’s PPE?


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Personal Care Assistant Copyright © by Jacquelyn McKnight is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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