Medical exam gloves are vital accessories in many industries for protection of customers, patients and health care providers.
In the healthcare industry, these disposable gloves are a prime example of personal protective equipment (PPE) that will help to protect the wearer (usually a health care professional) and/or the patient from the risk of spread of bacterial or viral infection during medical procedures oir examinations.
Medical exam gloves belong to a broader category of medical grade gloves that includes examination gloves,surgical gloves and medical gloves specifically designed for handling chemotherapy agents. Exam gloves are regulated by bodies like the FDA and Health Canada to ensure that they meet mandatory performance standards in areas like leak resistance, puncture resistance, tear resistance and biocompatibility.
Medical exam gloves are usually single use only, and so cannot be washed and reused.As will be explained below this is important to control the cross contamination risk that is inherent in industries such as health care or care for retirement home residents.
Types Of Medical Exam Gloves
Broadly speaking, medical exam gloves can be made of latex, vinyl or nitrile.
Latex gloves are made from natural rubber latex and offer high levels of sensitivity and feel to the wearer. Their primary disadvantage lies in their use of latex, which can cause allergic reactions among the growing number of individuals with latex sensitivities.
Vinyl gloves are latex free, which makes them a safe choice for those with latex sensitivities. They are also durable and cost effective. However, they fall short of both nitrile and latex gloves where feel and sensitivity are concerned.
Finally, nitrile gloves are made from a form of synthesized rubber that is able to closely match the feel and sensitivity of natural rubber latex. However, they are latex fee and thus a safe option if you have a latex sensitivity.
In recent times, hybrid gloves have begun to appear on the market. These provide the combined benefits of two or more different materials. For example, the Tuff / HyTuff glove is manufactured from a combination of nitrile and vinyl . As such, it can combine the durability of vinyl with the feel and sensitivity of nitrile at a lower cost to the buyer.
Powdered Or Non Powdered?
You can also buy medical exam gloves in either powdered or non powdered form. Historically, exam gloves were powdered in order to make them easy to apply (put on).
However, due to the widespread availability of a process known as chlorination, powdering of gloves is now widely viewed as an unnecessary feature. As a result, most of the new medical exam gloves coming onto the market in recent times tend to be powder free gloves.
Fully Textured Gloves
These are medical exam gloves with a grip pattern that extends from the fingers into the palm. This feature provides more secure handling of items by helping to prevent spills and drops, and thus enhances worker safety. It is particularly critical when working with smaller items, as is frequently the case (for example) in laboratory work.
You can also purchase medical exam gloves with different thickness levels. Obviously, the thicker the glove, the higher the tensile strength (tear resistance) as well as puncture resistance. However, increased thickness also comes with a loss of feel and sensitivity for the wearer.
Uses Of Medical Exam Gloves
We will now briefly summarize the various industries in which medical exam gloves are now considered standard items of protective equipment.
Hospital / Dental
Medical exam gloves play a pivotal role in protecting both patients and health care providers in the dental and hospital sectors. Health care providers are protected from contact with viral and bacterial pathogens that their patients may be carrying. Conversely, hospital and dental patients, many of whom are immunocompromised, benefit from the protection afforded by the gloves against any infectious agents that their carers may have.
Retirement/Senior Living Homes
Similarly to hospitals, workers in retirement residences can wear gloves in order to protect the vulnerable population of residents in these facilities. The gloves will also help to protect the workers from exposure to any pathogens that their charges may be carrying.
Cross Contamination Risk
Medical exam gloves are also single use, which helps to limit the risk that an infection carried by one patient or retirement home resident can be transferred to another patient or resident via a healthcare professional who cares for both patients.
This is known as cross contamination risk. Since the gloves can be discarded and replaced by a new pair whenever the health care provider moves on to a new patient, there is little to no risk that an infection carried by one patient can be transferred to another.
Laboratory Research Work
Workers in labs that carry out research into bacterial and viral pathogens use medical exam gloves as a critical item of PPE. The gloves protect the worker from possible exposure to dangerous pathogens.
However, the gloves also help to limit cross contamination risk. If the worker changes gloves whenever he or she switches to working with a different specimen, this helps to mimit the risk that one specimen may contaminate another.
In restaurants and other food catering businesses, workers typically wear medical exam gloves to avoid contaminating the food they are preparing and handling. This helps to ensure customer safety, something that is particularly important given the large numbers of customers that could be put at risk by one contaminated worker.
Home Or Business Cleaning Services
Yet another valuable application of medical examination gloves is in the janitorial service industry. Workers in these industries would face considerable exposure to germs when engaged in cleaning homes and businesses. This is particularly true when cleaning areas like bathrooms and kitchens. Wearing medical gloves when performing these functions goes a long way to promoting worker safety in these industries.