|The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 2 million people pick up infections during hospital stays each year, resulting in about 90,000 deaths with an overall cost of $5 billion annually. For this reason, effective protection is critical to both healthcare professionals and their patients. Both the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommend the use of appropriate barrier protection when handling blood pathogens and infectious materials. The use of medical gloves with effective barrier performance provides one such safety measure. In view of the availability of many types of medical gloves today, and that not all gloves offer the same degree of barrier protection, it is important that care must be taken to select the right gloves for the right procedures.|
In the healthcare environment, disposable medical gloves are life-saving devices that prevent the transmission of AIDS, hepatitis B and other potentially dangerous infectious diseases that can be contracted through contact with blood and body fluids. Effective barrier protection should therefore be an important criterion for glove selection and glove use.
Considerable information is now available as shown by a great number of comparative studies on barrier performance of the various types of medical gloves by U.S. researchers (Please see Table 1). Findings invariably showed that non-latex (synthetic) gloves, especially those made of vinyl, have inferior barrier with significantly higher leakage rates during use as compared to natural rubber latex gloves. In fact, natural rubber latex gloves have been universally preferred because of their excellent barrier protection, in-use strength, comfort, fit, and tactile sensitivity - important characteristics of gloves, as failure of these could lead to barrier protection being compromised. Furthermore, natural rubber latex gloves have also resealing properties when tiny needle punctures are encountered, a feature not observed in synthetic gloves such as vinyl and nitrile gloves.
"NRL (natural rubber latex) is pliable allowing for natural molding for more appropriate fit and has the ability to reseal when tiny punctures occur. In general, NRL provides comfort to the wearer, adequately protects against microorganisms, and provides adequate barrier effectiveness when used for medical and nursing procedures. Consequently, NRL is still the barrier of choice in the U.S."
- US Food and Drug Administration "Medical Glove Powder Report" updated on 30 April 2009.
The awareness of latex protein allergy in the 1990s affecting certain sensitive individuals had raised concern about the use of latex gloves. It is apprent now that the cause of the allergy arose from the use of an older generation of latex gloves that had no control on their residual protein level. Natural rubber latex gloves are derived from latex obtained from the Hevea Brasiliensis tree. Like all plant materials, latex contains proteins, which can cause sensitivity among certain sensitive individuals. The latex protein allergy is a type 1 reaction with immediate hypersensitivity. Sensitization is brought about by repeated exposures to excessive residual soluble protein in the latex gloves. As with other proteins in nuts, fruits, potatoes, tomatoes and some seafood. Which can elicit type 1 allergy, the reactions produce similar symptoms ranging from very mild common form of hives, watery eyes and runny noses, to asthma, to very serious but rare cases of anaphylaxis. Studies have shown that latex protein allergy affects about 1% of the general population (Liss G.M, and Sussman G.L. Am. J. Industrail Medicine; 1999; 35:196-200). The prevalence among healthcare workers, spina bifida and multiple-operated children is higher. Once sensitized and latex allergic, these individuals have to avoid the allergens they are sensitive to.
Latex protein allergy is sometimes confused with the more common irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis, the two other types of possible reactions often experienced by sensitive glove users. While irritant such as detergents, powder, temperature and pH extremes are causes of the former, the latter is mainly due to the presence of residual chemicals used in the manufacturing of gloves. Both latex and non-latex gloves can bring about these two types of reactions.
|Latex Safe Measures
Advancement in glove manufacturing technologies, especially in Malaysia, has led to the production of a new generation of low-protein latex gloves, which remain effective in barrier protection and are low risk to latex protein allergy.
on Latex Allergy
There has been a great deal of positive development regarding the decline of latex allergy since the 1990s, attributed to efforts made by the glove industry in product improvements and education by healthcare-related agencies. This has in fact been acknowledged recently by a number of well-known clinical researchers.