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Exam Gloves: Types, Usage & Recommendations

What's the Right Fit for Your Practice?

Practice Types & Healthcare Settings

When to Use Exam Gloves and When They're Not Needed

Recommendations for the Right Fit

Chemical Resistance Ratings for Nitrile & Latex Gloves

What's the Right Fit for Your Practice?

When choosing an exam glove, there are many factors to consider, including:

  • Your practice type
  • The types of procedures performed
  • Glove types available and their basic features

The type of glove to be used greatly depends on your practice type and the various procedures performed. Whether you're performing frequent blood draws, seasonal flu tests, or yearly physical exams, the right glove can help protect patients and staff by reducing the risk of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

Practice Types & Healthcare Settings

The list below represent various healthcare settings that would be likely to utilize exam gloves.    

  • Physician Office/Specialty Clinic/Community Health Center
  • Phlebotomy
  • Laboratory
  • Long Term Care
  • Pharmacy/Oncology Clinic
  • Home Care
  • Urgent Care/Emergency Room
  • Environmental Services

When to Use Exam Gloves, and When They're Not Needed

Examination Gloves Indicated in

Clinical Situations

Direct Patient Exposure Indirect Patient Exposure

Potential for touching blood,

body fluids, secretions,

excretions and items visibly

soiled by body fluids.

  • Contact with blood
  • Contact with mucous membrane and with non-intact skin
  • Potential presence of highly infectious and dangerous organism
  • Epidemic or emergency situations
  • IV insertion and removal; drawing blood
  • Discontinuation of venous line
  • Pelvic and vaginal examination
  • Suctioning non-closed systems of endotracheal tubes
  • Emptying emesis basins
  • Handling/cleaning instruments
  • Handling waste
  • Cleaning up spills of body fluids
Gloves Not Indicated (except for CONTACT precautions) Direct Patient Exposure Indirect Patient Exposure

No potential for exposure to

blood or body fluids, or

contaminated environment.        

  • Taking blood pressure, temperature and pulse
  • Performing SC and IM injections
  • Bathing and dressing the patient
  • Transporting patient
  • Caring for eyes and ears (without secretions)
  • Any vascular line manipulation in absence of blood leakage  
  • Using the telephone
  • Writing in the patient chart
  • Giving oral medications
  • Distributing or collecting patient dietary trays
  • Removing and replacing linen for patient bed
  • Placing non-invasive ventilation equipment and oxygen cannula
  • Moving patient furniture        

Recommendations for the Right Fit

Now that you've considered your practice type and the procedures you perform, additional factors to consider while choosing the right glove include fit and comfort, elasticity and chemical resistance. The chart below offers basic recommendations based on glove type and common areas of concern.  

  Barrier Protection

Allergen

Content

Strength & Durability Elasticity

Fit &

Comfort

Chemical Resistance

Nitrile

Good Choice

  • Provides good barrier protection

Good Choice

  • Contains no latex proteins
  • Can contain a low level of chemical allergens and curing agents
Good Choice
  • Performs well with a modest tensile strength per the ASTM requirements

Good Choice

  • Adequate flexibility
  • Does exhibit some memory and moldability        

Good Choice

  • Provides good comfort and fit due to increased memory and elasticity       

Best Choice

  • Provides good resistance to many chemicals 
  • See chemical resistance chart        

Latex

Best Choice

  • Provides good barrier protection

Not Recommended

  • Contains protein and chemical allergens; check with specific manufacturer for allergen content

Best Choice

  • Performs well with a modest tensile strength per the ASTM requirements

Best Choice

  • High flexibility and memory

Best Choice

  • Provides excellent comfort and fit due to its high elasticity 
  • Retains its shape and fit during rigorous manipulation

Good Choice

  • Provides good resistance to many chemicals 
  • See chemical resistance chart      

Vinyl 

(Polyvinyl

Chloride)

Not Recommended

  • May tear when put under significant stress, so protection is limited

Good Choice

  • Contains no latex proteins
  • Can contain some curing agents and other chemical ingredients

Not Recommended

  • Can break or puncture when put under tensile strain

Good Choice

  • Exhibits some stretchability and memory

Not Recommended

  • Limited elasticity
  • Fit and comfort can be limited
  • Wrist diameter can be large, making gloves baggy around the cuff after extended use

Not Recommended

  • Easily permeated by organic solvents  

Chemical Resistance Ratings for Nitrile & Latex Gloves

In some healthcare settings, chemical resistance is one of the more important factors to consider when choosing an exam glove. The below chart offers an overview of chemicals that may be found in healthcare settings, along with their resistance ratings for nitrile and latex gloves.

Chemical Nitrile Resistance Rating Latex Resistance Rating 

Acetaldehyde*  

Good Good

Ammonium Hydroxide 

Very Good Very Good

Citric Acid (10%)  

Very Good Very Good

Cyclohexanol 

Very Good Fair

Ethyl Alcohol 

Very Good Very Good

Ethyl Ether*

Good Good

Formaldehyde 

Very Good Very Good

Formic Acid 

Very Good Very Good

Hydrogen Peroxide (30%)

Good Good

Lactic Acid (85%) 

Very Good Very Good

Oleic Acid 

Very Good Fair

Oxalic Acid 

Very Good Very Good

Palmitic Acid 

Very Good Very Good

Phenol 

Fair Fair

Potassium Hydroxide

Very Good Very Good

Propyl Alcohol (Iso) 

Very Good Very Good

Sodium Hydroxide 

Very Good Very Good

Tannic Acid

Very Good Very Good

 Triethanolamine (85%)

Very Good Very Good

 Xylene*

Fair Poor

Chemicals marked with an asterisk (*) are for limited use. This chart and its contents have been adapted from OSHA's Chemical Resistance Selection Chart for Protective Gloves, and are not meant to be inclusive.

Note: When selecting chemical-resistant gloves, be sure to consult the manufacturer's recommendations, especially if the gloved hand(s) will be immersed in the chemical.        

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