Section 7.3 Glove Selection

Gloves are an effective way of protecting the hands, when no other options are available.

Selection of appropriate gloves for the management of hand dermatitis may be challenging, given that the protective capabilities of gloves are dependent on many variables.

Gloves should be selected based on the specific task and associated chemical exposures. The nature of the irritant or allergen as well as glove permeation time will determine the necessary type of glove material13. Glove thickness plays a major role in chemical permeation. However thin gloves provide greater user comfort and dexterity than thicker gloves made from the same material 5.

Even when a suitable glove has been chosen, if the user does not don or remove the glove appropriately, skin contamination can occur. Incorrect glove sizing can increase the rate of glove perforation14 so it is important that gloves fit correctly, that they are not too big or small. Gloves that are too small can also cause pressure urticaria. It is important that gloves are changed regularly, as sweating may exacerbate existing dermatitis15.

General advice for using gloves is listed below.

  • Gloves should be used for any washing, cleaning, or work where there is a need to wash hands frequently
  • If hands become sweaty inside gloves, patients may be encouraged to wear separate cotton gloves inside (cotton-lined gloves are not as good), as they help to absorb sweat. Cotton gloves can then be washed and re-used however this should be approved by the workplace, as in healthcare settings cotton gloves are usually not appropriate because of infection control.
  • Gloves that develop holes should be thrown out.
  • Disposable gloves should not be washed and reused.
  • Use of natural rubber latex gloves which are powdered should be strongly discouraged, as they increase the risk of allergy.
  • Latex gloves should be avoided if a worker has active dermatitis (damaged skin) as this will increase their risk of developing latex allergy.
  • Gloves should be the correct fit; that is not too big or small.

Types of gloves

For further information on gloves please refer to

Hazards of using gloves

Whilst gloves offer protection, they can present a level of hazard

  • Using gloves for long periods may cause the hands to sweat, contributing to irritant contact dermatitis (ICD). This can be reduced by changing gloves regularly.
  • Risk of allergy due to gloves, such as latex allergy from disposable gloves
  • Risk of developing allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) to other glove ingredients known as thiurams and carbamates (rubber accelerators).  ACD to rubber accelerators in gloves is the most common cause of allergy in health care workers.  Fortunately, there are now accelerator-free gloves available such as Ansell Micro-touch® Nitra free™ or Gammex NL sensitive (Sensoprene®), DermaPrene®, Ansell Barrier Glove
  • Risk of glove related hand urticaria – form of pressure urticaria (usually in people with underlying dermographism)16.

Use of gloves at home

  • Appropriate glove use at home is important, particularly to decrease exposure to skin irritants, such as when dishwashing or gardening.
  • For light dry work at home such as dusting, use cotton gloves that can be washed
  • For heavier work such as gardening, use heavy duty fabric gloves; this will stop you having to wash your hands as often
  • For food preparation, use disposable gloves such as polyethylene (clear plastic) or vinyl (almost clear plastic), especially when handling citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes and seafood
  • It may be an idea to suggest to patients to have several pairs of gloves for washing and cleaning around the house where they may be needed, such as the kitchen, laundry and bathroom
  • Strongly encourage the use of a dishwasher over hand washing dishes or get someone else to do the washing if possible

Glove specific advice for the workplace setting:

  • Gloves should be appropriate for the task being performed, as not all gloves are suitable for all tasks e.g. if dishwashing or washing items long armed gloves may be needed to stop water entering the gloves
  • Sometimes a fabric glove will be helpful for dry tasks, but a waterproof glove will be needed for other tasks
  • Encourage workers to always use protective gloves when dipping hands into parts cleaner
  • Recommend workers to consult a glove manufacturer to find out what gloves are best for the tasks you are performing or chemicals being used e.g.
  • Ensure all patients know not to wash or re-use disposable gloves and not to share gloves with co-workers
  • In particular, people using epoxy resins often do not wear the correct gloves. Epoxies and some other chemicals easily penetrate readily available gloves, such as those used for dishwashing. Solvex® gloves by Ansell are one variety that is safe to use when handling epoxy resins.
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