When selecting medical gloves, you should consider the anticipated risk level involved. Gloves must be appropriate for the situation. Therefore, you should evaluate the type and duration of task to be performed, examine the equipment to be used, and anticipate the potential for exposure to bodily fluids. Then consider which medical glove type will provide the most effective barrier, whether that barrier will remain intact under repeated hand movement, and whether the glove can withstand chemical exposure.
Latex type gloves are recommended for high-risk situations involving potential pathogen exposure. Nitrile gloves are an excellent alternative to latex because they offer comparable barrier properties and protection in high-risk settings. Examples of high risk situations are patient-care activities that create exposure to blood, body fluids and other potentially infectious material. Other high-risk situations are those that can stress the glove material, such as the handling of instruments and management of vascular lines. Handling chemicals and disinfectants also pose considerable risk.
Vinyl gloves are appropriate for most low-risk, short-duration tasks—although the new third-generation synthetic vinyl gloves offer enhanced durability and protection. Low-risk exposure involves patient-care activities that require minimal glove use; minimal or no exposure to blood or body fluids; or times where gloves need to be worn for only short periods. Some examples are administrating an intramuscular injection, routine suctioning, caring for a newborn, emptying a urinal and handling food.
In addition to providing barrier protection, medical gloves should also offer comfort. Gloves that fit comfortably and properly can improve performance and reduce hand fatigue. For example, latex gloves have been shown to offer the most elasticity, strength and thickness, according to tests conducted by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
Nitrile gloves are also a comfortable option because of their softness and flexibility, although they tend to be stiffer than latex. Nitrile is also very strong and resistant to solvents, and they cause less irritation. Vinyl gloves are naturally soft and comfortable, but provide a looser fit.
Finally, cost is another issue of major concern when selecting medical gloves. Latex and vinyl gloves are generally very affordable. Nitrile and other types of synthetic gloves are usually more costly. Choosing the cheapest medical glove may not be best for your situation, yet more expensive products may not fit your budget. The best approach is to choose the highest quality medical glove that fits your needs at the best value.