In the medical field, be it surgical or non-surgical, the most important part is maintaining high standards of hygiene. As a health care practitioner, gloves are essential for hand hygiene. There are several types of gloves that we find in the market. So, what exactly is used in the world of medicine? Well, to sum up, there are two kinds of gloves: Sterile Gloves; and Non-Sterile Gloves.

Non-sterile Gloves

What are Non-Sterile gloves?

As the name suggests, gloves that are not sterilized are Non-sterile gloves. They are also termed as Examination Gloves. Non-Sterile gloves are non-surgical because they do not meet the FDA (U.S Food and Drug Administration) standards of sterility. They are not sterilized by their manufacturer but do meet the standard assurance level by FDA so that they can be used for medical purposes. Non-Sterile gloves are only used in non-surgical and non-invasive medical procedures.

How are they different from Sterile gloves?

Sterile gloves are made to resist bacteria and other micro-organisms to prevent cross-infection and are safe for open wounds. Non-sterile gloves cannot be used for open wounds because they can cause infection.

What are powdered and non-powdered gloves?

Corn starch is used in gloves to reduce friction and to get a smoother slip between hands. Powdered gloves are not preferred for open wounds as they may cause allergies and slow down the healing process.

What are Non-Sterile gloves made of?

Non-Sterile gloves are generally of three types: Latex, Nitrile & Vinyl.

When to dispose of the gloves?

As Non-sterile gloves are one-time material, they are supposed to be disposed of after a single use, and under no circumstances should they be washed and reused.

In addition to this, the gloves should be changed in a particular condition:

  • When tending to a different or a new patient;
  • When examining a different or new injury after a contaminated injury;
  • If there are holes or punctures in the glove;
  • When the pair of gloves appear dirty and contaminated.

What are glove accelerators, and what do they do?

Accelerators are certain chemicals that are used during manufacturing traditional gloves to stabilize the raw material during vulcanization so that the elastic is strong and offers excellent contamination barrier. When non-sterile gloves are produced, typically, four types of accelerators are used: Thiurams; Carbamates; Mercaptobenzothiazoles (MBTs); Diphenylguanidine (DPG). Thiurams accelerators are a common cause of rubber contact allergy.

Nitrile Non-Sterile gloves and their places of use:

  1. They are the best choice in the medical industry. They are puncture resistant and offer an impermeable barrier to toxic blood-borne pathogens.
  2. Medical personnel who handle active chemotherapy drugs choose nitrile over latex for protection.
  3. Laboratory technicians, while handling needles or blood products, can opt for the nitrile variant as they give better protection barrier.
  4. Tattoo artists prefer them as they give protection from blood contamination, and they are more flexible and fit.
  5. In the automobile industry, because nitrile ones are resistant to solvents and petroleum.
  6. Workers who are handling polyurethanes.
  7. Product inspectors can meet various substances while inspecting; they, too, use nitrile non-sterile gloves for safety.

Nitrile Vs. Latex gloves

Latex gloves provide comfort and agility. They are highly flexible, has polymer coating and doesn't need to be powdered. Latex gloves create an effective barrier from biological contaminants.

Nitrile gloves, on the other hand, are latex-free. With the growing use of latex gloves (as they had provided proven protection against bloodborne pathogens like HIV), cases of allergic reactions went up as well. Nitrile gloves are way more resistant to hazardous and corrosive chemicals.

Vinyl Vs. Nitrile gloves

Vinyl gloves are made from PVC, a petroleum based. Though they are less expensive than their latex and nitrile counterparts, they are less durable as well! And they do not even priovide a full-on protection from chemical and biomedical ingredients.

Nitrile gloves are much more durable and notably more resistant to chemicals and other hazardous compounds. They are extremely puncture-resistant and yes, they do rule out the risks of latex allergy. However, they aren't that flexible and elastic as the latex ones.

When should non-sterile gloves be worn?

Non-Sterile gloves are a one-time thing. When there is a high probability of being in contact with body fluids, non-intact skin, secretions, excretions, or touching surfaces contaminated with the above blood or body fluids, non-sterile gloves do their job of hygiene maintenance.

Extreme care is mandatory in the food processing industry, and gloves are used to avoid food contamination and poisoning. With the aim of maximum food safety, disposable non-sterile gloves are widely used in the hospitality industry because they provide the same protection at a cheaper rate.

Where should non-sterile gloves be disposed of?

If you feel that your non-sterile glove was used for purposes that could have imparted ingredients that could be biohazardous or contaminate the surroundings, you need to be careful with the disposal. Biohazardous waste bags are highly recommended!

There is a popular myth that if non-sterile gloves are correctly used, they offer a similar standard of protection like a sterile glove. However, this is a misconception. Whether used hygienically or not, non-sterile gloves are not manufactured to meet the similar standards of a sterile glove. This is to keep in mind; sterile gloves offer protection to both sides: patient as well as caregivers. Non- sterile gloves only protect the wearer from cross-contamination. It is also essential to know the difference in identifying a non-sterile glove. Sterile gloves come in individual packaging to be completely untouched, whereas non-sterile gloves are sold as a bunch of 100 gloves a packet.