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Types of Gloves
by Denise M. Korniewicz, DNSc, RN, FA
In an effort to reduce occupational exposure to Hepatitis B Virus (HBV),Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and other bloodborne pathogens, theOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established a mandaterelated to protective attire. Specifically for gloves, it stated that"Gloves shall be worn when the employee has the potential for hands to havedirect skin contact with blood, other potentially infectious material, mucousmembranes, non-intact skin, and when handling items or surfaces soiled withblood or other potentially infectious materials. Disposable (single use) gloves,such as surgical or examination gloves, shall be replaced as soon as possiblewhen visibly soiled, torn, punctured or when their ability to function as abarrier is compromised." [Federal register: Part II, CFR Part 1910].
As a result of this mandate and the implementation of universal precautions(Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 1987), glove usage grew from 1.4billion in 1988 to 8.3 billion in 1993 (NIOSH, 1997). Healthcare workers areconcerned, confused, and often times, unsure about the types of gloves availablefor their use in healthcare settings. Often they find that the informationavailable depends on cost versus the quality of the product.
Today, there are a variety of gloves available for medical use ranging fromsterile to non-sterile, from latex to non-latex products, and gloves marketedfor "special use" to gloves that are labeled as procedure gloves.Additionally, there are a variety of gloves color coded and used in clinicalsettings that are marketed as more effective than others; however, there islittle or no evidence as to the barrier quality of most gloves and how eachdiffers from the other. In an effort to provide information to product managersabout the selection of gloves for clinical use, most manufacturers are beginningto differentiate their product based on the standards developed by the Food andDrug Administration (FDA) and the American Standards of Tests and Materials(ASTM).
A variety of gloves can be found in most healthcare settings. These includelatex (sterile, non-sterile), neoprene (chloroprene), nitrile, vinyl,polyurethane, and a variety of copolymers. Depending on which vendors supplyyour institution, the availability and variety of gloves used in yourinstitution may vary. In order to provide healthcare workers with the bestquality of gloves used for clinical practice, gloves (surgical or non-surgical)should be evaluated for their barrier quality, strength and durability, punctureresistance, fit and comfort, elasticity, and their allergen content or abilityto cause an allergy. Listed below is a simple glove selection guide to assistproduct managers with the differences in the types of gloves available forclinical use.
Denise M. Korniewicz, DNSc, RN, FAAN, is a Professor at the University ofMaryland School of Nursing (Baltimore, Maryland).
Selection Guide for Gloves Used in Health Care Settings
|Barrier Protection||Strength & Durability||Puncture Resistance||Fit & Comfort||Elasticity||Allergenicity|
|Latex||Long-standing barrier qualities||Strong, natural rubber is durable||Has Re-seal qualities||Provides comfortable fit||Natural ability due to elastic quality rubber||Contains protein & chemical allergens low powder is preferred|
|Neoprene (Chloroprene)||Good but tear resistance Is marginal||Strong||Has some puncture resistant qualities||Provides a good fit, has some elastic ability that enhances fit||Close to latex & allows for flexibility||Contains no latex proteins but has some accelerator chemicals|
|Nitrile||Resistant to punctures & tears, flexes & does not develop holes||Strong has puncture resistant qualities||Has puncture resistant qualities||Slightly tighter fit||Less than latex over time tends to shape to wearer's hand||Contains no proteins but contains some accelerator chemicals|
|Vinyl||Easily breaks during use, Baggy||Weak, breaks easily & punctures easily in use||Punctures with sharps||Fit limited baggy||Dexterity compromised||Contains no proteins but chemical accelerators|
|Polyurethane||Durable & high puncture resistance||Excellent tear, puncture & abrasion resistance||Superior to latex for puncture resistance; mimics nitrile in performance||Good comfort & fit; has latex - like qualities||Elasticity is apparent||Contains no latex proteins & no chemical accelerators|
|Copolymer (block polymers)||Good resistance to tears||Stronger than vinyl; puncture resistance is fair||Easy to puncture||Latex like fit and comfortable||Elasticity superior to vinyl but below latex||Contains no latex proteins but some chemical accelerators|
Glove Manufacturers' Product Matrixin pdf format (37k)