Medical gloves are used in healthcare establishments daily, for the protection of both the healthcare professional and the patient. However, materials and composition of such gloves, as well as the high frequency of use, make allergies and intolerance problems appear which has strong consequences on healthcare professionals and the facilities.

Allergies due to medical gloves are the daily occurrence of more and more healthcare professionals. Gloves are the first cause of work-related allergies due to caoutchouc additives for healthcare professionals, being 40 to 70% of the cases. Frequent exposition of healthcare professionals to such protection equipment is the most likeable cause.

There are several kinds of allergy:

  • Type I allergy, called «immediate allergy» : allergy specifically caused by natural latex gloves, it is a violent reaction which appears the moment the person comes into contact with the proteins of this material. Consequences can go as far as to anaphylactic shock.
  • Type IV allergies, called «delayed allergy» : common allergies caused by gloves, it involves damaged skin such as the contact dermatitis, between 48 to 72h upon exposition to the allergens. Even if they are not as dangerous as the type I allergies, they raise the risk of blood infections indirectly, since the skin, the most important human barrier against pathogens, is damaged. Nitrile gloves are the main cause of contact dermatitis within the synthetic glove family.

Type I allergy is a consequence of the exposition to natural latex proteins, which affects between 3% and 17% of healthcare professionals. Concerning the type IV allergies, the causes are more diversified.

Several allergens may be responsible for a contact dermatitis:

  • Vulcanization accelerators, such as the thiuram
  • Antioxidants, such as the Bisphenol A
  • Chemical products, used often for the disinfection of healthcare facilities

Even if the contact dermatitis is not mortal, it has important human and economic consequences: according to CDC (Center for Disease Control), the cost of dermatitis is estimated to 1 milliard $ per year in cares and sick leave. Furthermore, the average period of invalidity is over 23 days, which jeopardizes the organization of healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals greatly (lack of resources).


Prevention is key to avoid those allergies.

There are 3 possible prevention methods:

  • Use of under-gloves, like polyethylene gloves
  • Use of gloves with less allergens, like gloves with other materials than latex
  • Use of gloves without allergens, such as accelerator free gloves

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