Infection Control Today - 07/2004: GLOVES

The Right Choice for the Best Protection

To healthcare professionals, the true relevance of testing is whether a glove is protective in-use. For example, how well will the glove respond to a hemostat snag or twisting the cap off of a medication container?

The barrier protection of any glove may be further compromised by everyday practices that include storage conditions, skin care, personal habits and the inability to rapidly identify type of base material.

If the glove does not stretch, the material may be compromised either obviously with a tear or not so obviously at the microscopic level. When this happens, the barrier is broken and potentially infectious or hazardous substances can pass through. This risk of barrier breach is compounded if the glove also has a low tensile strength. Therefore, vinyl is not recommended where there is a risk of exposure to infectious organisms.1

Out-of-box failure rates (ACLs for water leaks) are important for intermediate risk reduction, but they are not predictive of in-use glove barrier protection once the glove is challenged with rigorous, prolonged or chemically incompatible procedures. The determinants of glove barrier protection are complex. The base material of the glove, manufacturing quality requirements and various on-the-job practices can adversely alter assumed barrier efficacy. Although the base material of a glove presents certain performance capability limits, there are significant variations among gloves made of the same material from different manufacturers.

Prior to purchase and use, obtain data from the manufacturers on testing performed by independent laboratories for the gloves under evaluation. Make certain the test data represent the actual gloves being purchased. Perform inspections for glove defects as well as in-use tests to see if the gloves can maintain protection during the tasks for which they are being selected.

The following table illustrates the strengths and limitations of the gamut of gloves on the market.

click here to view table

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