Latex Gloves

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Latex gloves are considered the gold standard for across-the-board protection for patients and health care workers against cross-contamination in medical procedures. However, since latex related allergies have skyrocketed in recent years, latex-free gloves made from vinyl and other synthetics are gaining popularity. Though latex gloves are definitively known to be the superior product for surgical use, either glove is safe and appropriate for home or routine medical use.

Latex is a natural product, made from the milky sap of the rubber tree. Natural rubber latex (NRL) gloves are durable, flexible and strong. They provide a superior barrier against biological hazards. To this day, surgical quality gloves are only made of latex, not vinyl, because of these advantages.

Latex Gloves: Allergic Reactions and Practical Alternatives

However, increasing numbers of people are reporting allergic reactions to latex. Latex glove allergies are triggered most often by tactile contact with the glove. The natural rubber oils are communicated either to patient or to the glove wearer and absorbed by the skin. Another way allergies are triggered is in the removal of latex gloves, because the powder released makes the oils airborne. Swelling, hives, sneezing and other respiratory conditions are common allergic reactions to latex.

Vinyl gloves contain no such allergens. They are fine for home use and for protection against day-to-day biological hazards. They, too, are lightly powdered for ease in application and removal, but the powder released carries no allergenic oils and so pose no allergic threat.

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