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What are Latex-Free Gloves?

Nitrile gloves are a common alternative to latex for medical professionals who develop an allergy.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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There are many people who have significant latex allergies and this can mean taking special precautions when it comes to buying gloves for the home. It’s also important for medical facilities to have latex-free gloves available so that patients with latex allergies are not put at potential risk if a medical worker needs to perform gloved procedures on such patients. Growing awareness of latex allergies has led to numerous manufacturers producing lots of different varieties of protective hand covering that don’t contain latex.

Most latex-free gloves are made of materials like vinyl and nitrile, and of these, nitrile is often thought very similar to latex. Some people call nitrile synthetic latex, but this does not mean it contains any of the natural proteins that can cause latex allergies or sensitivities. In some instances, especially when people are exposed to latex regularly, latex substitutes are preferred because certain case studies show that people can develop sensitivity to latex over time, and that risk of this may increase with greater usage.

As with gloves made of the real latex, latex-free gloves come in a variety of sizes. For most medical applications, they are disposable and meant for one time use. They may also be rated by intended purpose, and subject to special inspections if they’re going to be used in high-risk places like hospitals. There are usually three grades available: medical grade, high risk, and utility.

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Utility grade are not subject to as much scrutiny and may be the most common disposable latex-free gloves in homes, especially as used for household cleaning tasks. Though valuable for keeping things like cleaners off the skin, these aren’t sterile and would not be ideal for use in medical applications. Even in the home it’s a good idea to have some medical grade gloves for use in a medical emergency, though in a pinch utility grade might provide some protection.

Some people hesitate to use disposable gloves because their materials cause significant environmental debt. Latex does have the advantage of being biodegradable, which can’t be said for vinyl or nitrile. For this reason, people may want to search for reusable latex-free gloves and there are plenty available. Numerous styles exist and some feature lining, which may be more comfortable when the gloves are worn for long periods of time.

The glove industry has certainly risen to the challenge of providing hand coverage and protection for those who are allergic to latex. Considerable choice and variety now exists in materials that create latex-free gloves. Many such gloves for home use can be found in grocery stores or pharmacies, and numerous companies sell plenty of styles and grades online too at prices similar to those made of latex materials.

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Rotergirl
Post 2

I didn't know you could develop a latex allergy, but anything is possible, obviously. I'm not allergic, which is a good thing, since I use utility gloves a lot when I'm doing heavy duty cleaning. It's just easier to do some jobs when you're not bare-handed.

I've used them especially when I'm doing a big sink full of dishes, like after a holiday meal. We don't have a dishwasher -- except me. So, the gloves come in very handy so my hands aren't a wreck after I'm finished cleaning up.

My lab tech always asks me if I'm allergic to latex when I go in for lab work. I always say I'm not.

Pippinwhite
Post 1

I have a friend who is an ICU nurse. She started having itchy hands and eyes, after using goggles. It turned out she had developed a latex allergy, after 25 years in the nursing profession.

She didn't realize what was going on at first, until one of the nurses she was working with saw her hands as she ungloved to wash them. She asked what was wrong and my friend told her. She told my friend to try the nitrile gloves. She did and said she could tell the difference immediately. Now, she has to make sure there's a "non-latex" tray available any time she's on the unit.

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