Wherever possible gloves should be worn when providing first aid to protect you and your patient from infection: unpleasant diseases can be transmitted by body fluids such as blood. However, a variety of different medical gloves are available. Here’s a run-down of the three main types – latex, nitrile and vinyl gloves – to help you choose the one that is right for you.
As the name suggests, latex gloves are made from natural rubber latex (which is extracted from rubber trees).
Pros: the primary advantage of latex gloves is the protection they offer. Latex offers the most effective barrier to the transmission of viruses. Latex gloves are also thin, stretchy and flexible, and tend to be very close-fitting. This allows the wearer to maintain a higher level of dexterity and feeling in the hand.
Cons: Many people are allergic to the proteins in latex, and latex allergies are becoming more common. Allergic reactions to latex protein can be as mild as a skin rash, but severe reactions can be life-threatening. Latex also has poor resistance to chemicals, oils and solvents. Latex gloves will break down in contact with common sports products such as Vaseline, heat rubs and massage oils.
Verdict: Because of the allergy issue, latex gloves may not be suitable for general first aid use and should be reserved for situations where their high-level of protection against viral transmission is absolutely required.
Buy latex gloves here at £9.12 inc VAT for 100.
Nitrile gloves are a form of medical glove made from synthetic rubber.
Pros: Because nitrile gloves contain no natural latex proteins, they are safe for people who are allergic to latex. Although nitrile gloves are not quite as flexible as latex gloves, they still allow for a good level of sensitivity and manual dexterity. Nitrile gloves are also quite puncture-resistant and will withstand contact with oils and most solvents and chemicals.
Cons: Unfortunately, nitrile gloves are more expensive than latex or vinyl gloves.
Verdict: Nitrile gloves are a safe choice for general first aid use.
Buy nitrile gloves here at £9.54 inc VAT for 100.
Vinyl gloves are made from PVC. They are widely used as a general handling glove and are the type of gloves that come in most ready-made first aid kits.
Pros: Vinyl gloves carry no allergy risk. They also have a somewhat looser, more relaxed fit than latex or nitrile gloves so can be easier to pull onto the hand in a hurry.
Cons: Vinyl is a somewhat less effective barrier to viral transmission than either latex rubber or nitrile rubber. They are not as resistant to punctures or tearing, and offer a lower level of feel and sensitivity.
Verdict: Vinyl gloves are perfectly good for general, day-to-day first aid use. But if you anticipate a lot of blood injuries (e.g. rugby, boxing) you might consider nitrile gloves instead.
Buy vinyl gloves here at £7.14 inc VAT for 100
|Barrier Protection Against Viral Transmission||★ ★ ★||★ ★||★|
|Tear Resistance||★ ★||★ ★||★|
|Puncture Resistance||★||★ ★||★|
|Tensile Strength and Elasticity||★ ★ ★||★ ★||★|
|Protein Content||Present||Not Present||Not Present|
|Comfort and Finger Dexterity||★ ★ ★||★ ★||★|
|Tactile Sensitivity and Feel||★ ★ ★||★ ★||★|
|Resistance to Oil and Solvents||★||★ ★ ★||★ ★|
|Resistance to Chemicals||★||★ ★ ★||★|
|Food Contact Safety||★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★|
|Biodegradeable and Environmentally Friendly||★ ★ ★||★||★|
|Price||★ ★||★||★ ★ ★|
Legend: Fair★ Good★★ Excellent★★★