I talked in my last blog about the damage that frequent, but essential washing can do to your hands. Is a simpler solution to wear disposable gloves, which are often made of latex? I have seen many people at work and in Supermarket’s wearing these one-use gloves. But is this as safe as frequent hand- washing, it could be that wearing gloves can give you a false sense of security. A virus like Covid can adhere well to latex and other types of gloves. Similarly, if someone has touched a contaminated surface with a gloved hand, they are just as likely to transmit contamination as someone who hasn’t worn gloves. Failing to change gloves when needed is no different from failing to wash your hands. If you handle something contaminated with coronavirus and then touch your face, the gloves won’t stop you from getting infected. Wearing gloves is a convenient way to minimise contamination and keep our hands clean, but they are only really useful when hand-washing is either not possible or insufficient to prevent chemical or biological contamination. And if they are worn, will need to be changed as often as hands need to be washed.
Most gloves that come in large packs are not sterile. When you see someone wearing gloves in a food preparation or retail environment, they may have had them on for hours and might have also handled contaminated material with them. Not taking off gloves correctly can contaminate your hands. You need to reach inside your right glove and peel it inside out without touching the outside. Watch a few episodes of Gray’s Anatomy or ER to see how It’s done!
Some people develop an allergy to gloves made of natural rubber latex. Choose non-latex gloves unless there are no alternatives that give the required protection. Alternatives such as soft nitrile, vinyl or plastic gloves may provide better chemical resistance or durability. If you must use latex, choose low-protein, powder-free gloves. Gloves should always fit the wearer. Tight gloves can make hands feel tired and lose their grip. Gloves that are too large, can create folds, these can impair work and be uncomfortable. Our hands have a natural reaction to a tight, hot environment, which leads to sweating. This can make wearing gloves uncomfortable and even lead to skin problems that make the issue worse. When skin is exposed to sweat for a prolonged time, it weakens and becomes more vulnerable. Also, a moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. So, although gloves are a necessary precaution without taking steps to reduce sweat build-up, they can become a health issue.
Standard single-use gloves provide a non-permeable barrier that safely protects the hands in light duty work environments. But a lack of airflow inhibits proper regulation of the skin environment and glove friction from repeatedly rubbing against the skin harms the upper skin layers. Over time, the health risks for workers from uncomfortable single-use gloves can greatly decrease productivity as well increase the risk of significant medical issues. By limiting hand functionality, perspiration may hinder someone’s ability to perform certain job functions. Repeatedly alternating from a wet to dry environment, like putting on and removing several pairs of gloves a day, exacerbates irritation to the skin. (Just ask nurses what they think about this!) It doesn’t get any better when gloves are removed as the compromised skin is then exposed to a fluctuaton in temperature. Skin irritations such as dryness, chapping and cracking, can lead to more serious conditions.
Chronic contact dermatitis, is one of the most commonly reported occupational diseases. Dermatitis can be caused by direct contact with the natural latex rubber in latex gloves. Powdered latex gloves can also cause asthma. The proteins in the latex glove leach into the powder which becomes airborne when they are removed. Inhaling the powder may lead to sensitisation.
This all sounds a little alarming but if you have to or want to wear gloves, there are some moisture management techniques that can help. Using an emollient or hand creams that adds an additional layer of protection between glove moisture and the skin and frequently changing your gloves so as to limit exposure to prolonged moisture. Newer technologies within a glove are making the wearing experience more comfortable. One such technology incorporates an absorbent liner that wicks moisture from the skin. Additionally, therapeutic properties and protective ingredients are being manufactured into a glove, which can limit the potential for skin irritation and provide a healthier environment for the hand.
Been aware of taking care of your hands safely and keeping them clean, dry and well-moisturised will make a big difference. And not just sticking on a pair of gloves and forgetting about them. Many one-use gloves are now fully recyclable and opt for these if you can.
Look after your hands they work hand on your behalf and deserve to be treatedwith love and care.