Are you putting yourself, your client or your loved one at risk by not wearing the correct type of professional gloves or perhaps even no gloves at all? Let’s look at why it is important to not only wear medical grade gloves when performing care on patients or loved ones, but how to choose the correct one in our “How To Choose and Use Disposable Medical Gloves [Buying Guide]”.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (1) and the World Health Organization (WHO) (2) recommend anyone in the health care field, including home care workers and caregivers, use personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize the risk of contamination and spread of disease. For this article we will be addressing a specific piece of PPE – disposable medical gloves.
employee for protection against infectious materials” (OSHA)(1)
Why the need for professional medical grade gloves?
The purpose for wearing professional gloves is two-fold:
- To reduce the risk of contamination of health-care worker’s (caregiver) hands with patient blood and bodily fluids (pathogens)
- To reduce the risk of transmission and spread of pathogens into the general environment from health care worker (caregiver) to the patient, from the patient to the health care worker and from patient to patient.
While wearing professional gloves during the entire bodily care of a patient can significantly reduce the risk of contamination, it is not the only precaution that should be observed. Medical grade gloves can allow pathogens onto the health care worker’s skin through microscopic holes and tears in the glove material or during removal of the gloves.
To further reduce the risk of contamination, health care workers (caregivers) should also thoroughly wash their hands directly before and after removing the gloves. Studies have shown that washing hands directly before and after wearing gloves using an alcohol-based solution can significantly reduce the spread of contaminates between the patient and health care worker and to surrounding environmental surfaces (clothing, bedding, furniture, counters, sinks, switches, etc.)
What Type of Gloves Are Needed?
Disposable professional medical gloves usually come in two kinds – sterile and non-sterile. Sterile gloves are usually reserved for surgical procedures. They are usually more expensive and not necessary for routine daily care of patients. We will explore the types of non-sterile professional gloves used by health care workers.
The type of glove used depends on several factors:
- nature of the task to be performed (wound care, emptying bed pan, applying topical medicine, etc.)
- risk of exposure to contaminant (handling patient with highly contagious or severe disease)
- risk of chemical exposure (using potent chemical compounds that could cause reaction)
- duration of the task to be performed (will work be five minutes, an hour or more)
- severity of the risk (major wound may require double gloves)
- sensitivity or ability to feel (need to isolate veins or feel for small nodules)
- snugness (need gloves to minimally stretch to be not too loose or tight)
- ability to grip (need to pickup or manage small tools or needles)
- tear resistance
- allergies (latex gloves can produce allergic reactions for both health workers and patients)
Whichever medical glove you choose it needs to fit you correctly. If it is too tight it will be difficult to put on and may even cause circulation problems. If it is too loose you will not be able to grip tools and surface areas correctly and may inadvertently expose yourself to contaminants through the wrist opening.
Types of Gloves
Essentially there are four types of non-sterile gloves – latex, vinyl, nitrile and chloroprene. Let’s take a brief look at each type of glove.
- Latex – most popular type of disposable medical glove. They are used in high-risk situations involving infectious materials. Made of elastic material they can stretch while providing a snug fit. However, many health care workers and even patients are allergic to latex.
- Vinyl – made from polyvinyl chloride, this glove is designed for low-risk tasks and handling non-hazardous materials. While the gloves are soft and comfortable, they are less durable than latex gloves.
- Nitrile – this is a general purpose glove that is suitable for routine exams, bodily care and exposure to limited chemicals. They provide a great barrier of protection and are tear resistant, making them durable for longer periods of wear. The snug fit allows for greater precision of instrument handling and feeling of the skin. They are a great alternative for those with latex allergies.
- Chloroprene – a newer type of rubber material glove which is more commonly known as “Neoprene”. It is thicker and more durable than vinyl. The gloves are comfortable for long time wear and fit the hand snugly. It is a great solution when working around more hazardous type of materials. They are generally more expensive than the other types of medical gloves, but they check a lot of the boxes for durability, protection, fit, strength, comfort and handling abilities.
Medical gloves used to come in a powdered version. In January 2017 the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of powdered gloves. The FDA deemed the allergen risk and potential harm to a patient should the powder enter an open wound or cut would outweigh the benefits of using a powdered lubricant to don gloves.
Disposable Medical Gloves Comparison Chart
Here is a quick comparison chart of the four different types of disposable medical gloves. Latex gloves used to be the gold standard for medical exam gloves, but given that nearly 12% of healthcare workers and up to 6% of patients exhibit allergic reactions to rubber latex many are switching to nitrile or the newer chloroprene gloves. Chloroprene gloves are now emerging as the best glove for the job, but the price point is still steep for many organizations’ and home care worker’s budgets. In that regard nitrile gloves are still the best value for the cost for home care worker’s disposable medical glove needs.
|Strength & Durability|
|Fit & Comfort|
|Chemical & BioHazard Resistance|
|Minimize Exposure to Harmful Toxins|
|Environmental Friendly *|
|Cost (value for money)|
- Manufacturing, raw materials and disposal
|Best Choice||Better Choice||Good Choice||Not Recommended|
Do Glove Colors Matter?
For the sake of this discussion it does not matter. However, if you work in a health care organization they may use different colors to either signify the organization or departments within the organization that have different uses for gloves.
Traditionally latex gloves were clear and organizations used colored gloves to visually distinguish latex from non-latex gloves. This was particularly convenient for those with latex allergies. However, you will see some sell colored latex gloves now. It is an organization’s call to decide how they want to regulate which type of gloves to stock and the color coding system they will use for employees.
Hospitals tend to use blue colored disposable gloves, but purple and gray gloves are starting to make their mark in health and dental organizations. Sometimes a lighter glove will be worn over top a darker color (double gloving) to highlight any tears or punctures in the main glove.
How To Determine Glove Size
Gloves should fit you well, like a glove. They should not be too tight or loose, but snuggly envelope your hands. Gloves usually come in sizes marked as follows:
- XS for smaller hands with approximate girth less than 7″
- S for small hands with approximate girth of 7″ – 8″
- M for medium hands with approximate girth of 8″ – 9″
- L for large hands with approximate girth of 9″ – 10″
- XL for larger hands with approximate girth of 10″+
You need to measure around the widest part of your palm on your dominant hand. Do not include your thumb in the measurements. Round up to the highest whole inch. You may need to go up or down a size depending on how snug or loose you prefer your gloves.
How to Put on Gloves
Putting on medical gloves is called “donning” whereas the removal of the gloves is called “doffing”.
Remove any jewelry that may tear or puncture your gloves, such as watches, rings or bracelets. Exam your gloves for any signs of damage and discard immediately.
Just prior to donning your gloves you will need to thoroughly wash your hands. The preference is to use clean running water and soap to remove as many contaminants as possible from your hands. You should wash your hands for no less than 20 seconds. (Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.) If clean running water and soap is not available, then use a 60% alcohol-based sanitizer to clean your hands. (4)
Donning your gloves (watch video):
- remove glove from box
- place hand into glove and pull up hand
- adjust each finger cover to fit snug over your fingers
- extend end of glove fully up your wrist, ensuring a snug fit around wrist
- repeat with other hand
Dos and Don’ts When Wearing Your Gloves
There are several things you need to be aware off while wearing your gloves. Here are some areas of consideration:
- Do NOT touch other areas of your body (eyes, nose, scratch an itch, adjust your glasses, etc.) before, during or after administering patient treatment.
- Do NOT touch other environmental surfaces (counters, furniture, clothing, etc.) while you are donning gloves. Your gloves need to remain as clean and sterile as possible to reduce contaminating your patient or contaminating surfaces after treatment.
- Do NOT wash and reuse disposable gloves. You cannot effectively eliminate all the microorganisms living in and on the gloves to avoid cross-contamination with future care of the same patient or another patient.
- Do NOT start patient treatment in the dirtiest area first. Work from “clean to dirty” meaning start with cleanest tasks and then proceed to more heavily contaminated areas. (1)
- DO change gloves out when extremely soiled.
- DO use two gloves (double gloving) in treatments involving heavily contaminated areas.
- DO change gloves when treating more than one patient.
- DO properly dispose of soiled gloves in secure receptacle to reduce further contamination.
How to Properly Remove and Dispose of Gloves
Gloves should be removed in a methodical manner to reduce exposure to pathogens and other harmful contaminants. Once your gloves have been doffed you need to dispose of them in a secure location where they cannot cause further contamination. (We use double plastic bags, tie them up and place them in the trash when a secure box is not available.)
To properly remove gloves (watch video):
- Grasp outer edge near wrist
- Pull down over fingers
- Hold glove in opposite hand
- Insert two fingers under the wrist portion of the opposite hand
- Gently pull down hand catching first glove inside the second glove
- Continue pulling off second glove until completely doffed and securely dispose pair of gloves
This method keeps nearly all the contaminants inside the gloves while removing them, thus reducing your risk of exposure to pathogens.
After successfully removing your gloves, practice good hand hygiene by thoroughly washinig your hands with clean running water and soap again or use an alcohol-based sanitizer to reduce exposure to contaminants.
Chloroprene Medical Gloves
Nitrile Medical Gloves
Latex Medical Gloves
Vinyl Medical Gloves
How To Choose and Use Disposable Medical Gloves [Buying Guide] Conclusion
It is imperative to wear the correct protective disposable medical gloves when working with those in your care. The risk of contamination from bodily fluids and other pathogens is too great to further jeopardize both your health and your charges health.
Practicing good hand hygiene (thoroughly washing your hands) before and after the use of gloves will significantly reduce the spread of contaminants. Learning how to properly don and doff gloves will keep soiled contents contained within the gloves further reducing the spread of contaminants to other surface areas as well as other people in which you may come into contact.
Gloves should fit snug, not too loose or too tight. Be aware of potential latex allergies and choose a glove type that works best for your needs and your budget. Practice good glove techniques and help minimize the health risks of contamination for everyone!
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – “The dirty hand in the latex glove”: a study of hand hygiene compliance when gloves are worn.
- (1) Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – Guidance for the Selection and Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Healthcare Settings
- (2) World Health Organization (WHO) – Glove Use Information Leaflet
- (3) US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – Hand hygiene: Back to the basics of infection control
- (4) Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – When & How to Wash Your Hands
Let us know if you have any thoughts about “How To Choose and Use Disposable Medical Gloves [Buying Guide]” by leaving a comment below.
To Your Improved Health!