Surgical gloves are among the most widely used supplies in the healthcareindustry, as they protect caregivers and patients from infection-causing pathogens. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of powdered gloves due to their potential health-threatening risks. So, why should surgical gloves be powder-free?
Here are the top 9 reasons why surgical gloves should be powder-free:
- To avoid irritation on hands
- To minimize eye-related issues
- To avoid the risk of postoperative site infections
- To minimize allergic reactions
- To protect healthcare workers from asthma
- To balance the skin’s pH
- To reduce the chances of misdiagnosis
- To optimize the functionality of surgical equipment
- To save healthcare workers’ time
As mentioned, surgical gloves play an essential role within the healthcare industry. Therefore, in this article, I’ll discuss a bit more in-depth why they should be powder-free while taking you through some of the main disadvantages of powdered gloves. Read on to learn more.
1. To Avoid Irritation on Hands
Surgical gloves are among the most frequently used items in the healthcare sector. For decades, healthcare workers have preferred using powdered gloves since they’re more manageable when putting on and taking off. However, these types of surgical gloves can irritate your hands, eventually leading to severe skin damage.
Skin irritation can be uncomfortable at best, especially if you are allergic to specks of dust, chemicals, and other substances that can irritate your skin. The most common determinant of irritation is the presence of rashes on your hands. However, you may also notice other symptoms whenever your skin reacts to particles.
So, how do powdered surgical gloves affect your hands?
Powdered gloves contain different types of powders, including cornstarch and calcium carbonate. These powders can cause contact dermatitis (a non-immune reaction) if you have sensitive skin due to mechanical or abrasive action. For instance, you’ll notice that your hands are dry, rough, or have red patches all over after removing the powdered gloves.
Moreover, some natural rubber latex gloves may have aerosolized glove powder. The powder can bind with proteins or allergens to cause allergic reactions on your hands. Additionally, this powder can react with alcohol-based solutions (such as hand sanitizers) to create a gritty feeling on your hands.
2. To Minimize Eye-Related Issues
Accidents are expected in your day-to-day life as a health practitioner, especially when handling chemicals in liquid or powder form. These substances can often accidentally splash into your or your patient’s eyes. Since eyes absorb dust and other particles when exposed to them, these substances can cause eye infections.
Using powdered surgical gloves increases the chances of eye-related infections. After removing the gloves, these powders may enter your eyes when you rub them without preemptively cleaning your hands. The particles may also be suspended in the air and accidentally get into the eye tissue.
Dusting powders such as talcum can react with your eyes, causing severe irritations, inflammations, or other allergic reactions. Consequently, your eyes may develop granulomas due to these toxic effects. However, it’s uncommon to find talcum in powdered gloves manufactured today.
Cornstarch, too, can cause granulomatous reactions and other eye complications. And in severe cases, this can lead to sight loss or blindness. Therefore, it’s generally safer to use powder-free gloves in healthcare sectors to prevent eye-related complications among workers and patients.
Here are the symptoms of eye infection due to powder contact:
- A burning sensation: You might experience irritation in your eyes accompanied by itching. These symptoms may last for days, and your eyes may start swelling eventually.
- Tender eyelids: Your eyelids may become painful when blinking. When this happens, you may struggle to see.
- Excessive tearing: Excessive tears occur when your eyes try to flush the particles out. Therefore, you can expect a lot of tears if the powder manages to stay within your eyes for prolonged periods.
- Blurred vision: You might physically feel the tiny particles in your eyes, resulting in blurred vision. Moreover, your eyes might be sensitive to light or experience pain whenever it strikes them.
- Eye redness: When the glove’s powder gets into your eyes, you may experience excessive redness, which can become painful over time. This condition occurs due to swollen blood vessels in your eyes, making them look bloodshot. If these particles remain in your eyes, the resulting infections may cause vision impairment.
3. To Avoid the Risk of Postoperative Site Infections
If you’re a surgeon, you must use gloves during the surgical process to prevent the risk of infections. However, it’s unsafe to use powdered gloves in the operating room. The powders in these gloves may cause severe reactions after coming in contact with the patients’ open wounds.
Since the body regards the powder as a foreign substance (antigen), its presence on the patient’s body tissues will cause an immune reaction. Moreover, the powder from these gloves can also spread bacteria, causing clots and delaying healing. The delayed healing process also increases treating costs, leading to hefty hospital bills.
The infections on the patient’s wound might also cause permanent tissue damage. Such cases occur due to the presence of pathogens on the scars. As a result, choosing the wrong types of gloves can even endanger a patient’s life in severe cases.
Therefore, it’s preferable to use powder-free gloves to minimize post-surgery issues. Ensuring that you always use powder-free surgical gloves will protect your patients from postoperative site infections. Moreover, their hospital stay won’t be delayed, helping lower their treatment costs.
If you’re a healthcare manager, you can prevent this problem and safeguard your patients by creating awareness of the adverse effects of powdered surgical gloves.
Furthermore, you’ll always want to get your glove reserve from brands that manufacture or supply powder-free surgical gloves. For instance, the powderless gloves we offer are allergen-free and perfectly fit practitioners’ hands to allow proper air ventilation.
Research also proves that powder-free gloves are the best alternative to use in the operating room. For example, this study involved the extraction of a gallbladder using powder-free gloves. The result showed no complications in the patient since non-powdered gloves do not easily contract bacteria, unlike their powdered counterparts.
4. To Minimize Allergic Reactions
Studies have shown that powdered surgical gloves cause allergic reactions among healthcare workers and patients. An allergic reaction occurs when your body’s immune system reacts abnormally to certain substances (antigens). A good example is when your skin develops rashes and becomes itchy after touching pollen grains.
Other allergens include particles in scented soaps, cosmetics, fragrances, and powders.
Disposable gloves are made of latex products obtained naturally from rubber. However, powders in powdered surgical gloves increase the risk of allergic reactions on your skin. If your skin becomes dry and itchy and swells eventually, it’s reacting to the powder present in the gloves.
In short, you’d be suffering from latex allergy.
You can also look for other symptoms like inflammation around your nose to determine if you’re allergic to powdered latex gloves. If you notice that you are experiencing a running nose, you should take an asthma test as early as possible. Apart from coughing, a severe allergy will result in breathing problems, and your throat might end up swelling.
However, these allergy reactions depend on how intense your sensitivity is to latex products. Therefore, the responses will be mild if your allergy is not fierce. On the other hand, latex-based allergic reactions can be much more severe for some. After inhaling these dusting powders, they can experience reactions or inflammations on their noses, throats, or entire respiratory systems.
Here are the three types of latex allergies:
- Allergic contact occurs due to prolonged skin exposure to the powder inside the gloves. If you are sensitive to this powder, you may start noticing rashes on your skin that eventually become itchy. Therefore, the best way to prevent allergic contact is by using powder-free gloves. When doing so, you’ll always be safe no matter how long these gloves come in contact with your skin.
- Instant contact dermatitis: It’s the most popular type of latex allergy. The response is usually mild and occurs after the skin comes in contact with latex. The affected skin area may start drying after some time and eventually become itchy.
- Latex allergy: This allergy is the most dangerous reaction among the three. In most cases, latex allergy occurs instantly when the glove powder comes into contact with the skin. However, there are instances where the response might be delayed for up to one day. If you have this allergy, you may notice skin redness and itchiness.
5. To Protect Healthcare Workers From Asthma
Asthma is an illness that alters the normal functioning of your lungs. This condition can lead to a life-threatening attack due to breathing difficulties. Although genetic factors contribute to the development of asthma, you can also get it in a healthcare setting.
So, how can you contract asthma as a healthcare worker?
Prolonged use of powdered surgical gloves can make you more prone to contracting asthma. These gloves offer the best grip while wearing and removing them. However, they pose a significant danger to both patients and health workers during the removal process, as inhaling the powder can trigger allergic reactions.
Occupational asthma is the most prevalent type of asthma among health workers. It develops due to prolonged exposure to dusting powders in powdered gloves. In short, your body produces asthmatic symptoms when you inhale the powders for a long time. These symptoms might also result in long-term damage to the body tissue.
Here are some symptoms of occupational asthma that you may notice:
- Wheezing: You may hear a whistling sound when breathing. Wheezing can become even more severe when you have a cold or flu.
- Coughing: You may start coughing uncontrollably after inhaling the powder for the first time. Moreover, the cough can persist if you continue to breathe in the powder particles in the air.
- Runny nose: Inhaling the powder can cause infections in your nasal tissue. A stuffy nose mainly occurs due to these nasal infections. Consequently, you’ll experience discomfort during your day-to-day activities as the tissue won’t stop producing mucus.
- Nasal congestion: If you are working in an environment where you’re exposed to powdered gloves, the chances of you having nasal congestion are pretty high. Your nose may become stuffy and swell eventually. A congested nose is annoying when handling patients in the healthcare units.
- Shortness of breath: Unusual breathing is one of the most common symptoms of occupational asthma. It mainly occurs when you’re walking or working. Additionally, you might feel some chest pains while breathing, leading to severe respiratory problems.
- Eye irritation: The powder particles can also settle in your eyes when removing the gloves after use, causing infections after reacting with the eye tissue. However, eye irritation may occur after a few days of contact with the powder as not everyone can respond quickly to eye complications.
Note: It’s best to seek medical intervention if you develop such symptoms after using powdered gloves. Occupational asthma is controllable if detected early, but a late diagnosis can be fatal. However, the best way to prevent this condition is by using powder-free surgical gloves in the first place.
Using powder-free gloves in the workplace also ensures that the patients are safe from asthma and other respiratory complications.
6. To Balance the Skin’s pH
The skin has a pH of 5.5 under normal conditions. This pH value ensures that the skin is safe from invasive pathogens. However, when it comes to chemicals, the skin pH values might change, which exposes it to harmful microorganisms.
Powdered gloves provide better donning, allowing you to work comfortably. However, despite creating an airtight environment for the skin, they tamper with the normal skin pH. For instance, they can make the skin rough due to their abrasive action.
Moreover, the powder creates an alkaline environment around the skin that eventually lowers skin protection against harmful microorganisms. This might lead to a skin condition called hand eczema. The skin problem mainly affects the palms of your hands, and you may start experiencing difficulties when handling tasks.
Hand eczema may last for four weeks, depending on its severity. Moreover, severe skin sensitivity can lead to increased pain. If the situation worsens, you might also notice some itchy blisters on your hands.
How can you prevent your skin from these abrasive reactions?
Wearing powder-free gloves helps maintain the skin’s natural pH. As a result, your hands will be much better protected, as they won’t be coming in contact with any abrasive powders or similar particles. Therefore, no pathogens will be able to invade the delicate tissues under your skin.
Additionally, using powder-free gloves will help you minimize skin irritation, as the skin pH remains optimal. Skin hygiene also comes in handy when maintaining the natural pH of your hands. Powder-free gloves keep your hands clean, meaning you may not even have to take the time to clean them with soap after removing them. Moreover, you’ll prevent your patients from contracting various diseases by keeping powdered gloves away from them.
7. To Reduce the Chances of Misdiagnosis
Misdiagnosis is one of the most significant problems you can experience as a medical practitioner. The scenario occurs when you misdescribe a patient’s condition due to wrong laboratory results. Misdiagnosis mainly happens either when collecting specimens from a patient, during analysis, or throughout the interpretation of lab results.
Misdiagnosis is a serious issue, as failing to identify the real problem may cause you to prescribe the wrong treatment. Consequently, a patient’s condition will worsen, leading to delayed healing. In severe cases, the consequences might be fatal.
The use of powdered gloves in the laboratory can lead to false results. Therefore, interpretation of such results causes misdiagnosing of a patient’s health condition. For instance, cornstarch and other chemicals in powdered gloves impede biological analytic procedures, including PCR and enzyme immunoassay. Therefore, they can alter lab results, leading to wrong interpretations.
Misdiagnosis causes patients to incur more costs on medications due to delayed treatment and healing processes. Therefore, as a health worker, it’s paramount to use powder-free gloves when handling lab specimens to reduce the chances of misdiagnosis as much as possible. Not to mention that patients will generally be much safer, as they won’t have to undergo additional operations due to issues that occur after absorbing the powders in their wounds.
8. To Optimize Functionality of Surgical Equipment
Surgical instruments should always be clean and sterile before being used on patients. Surgical staff follows strict procedures to sterilize these tools in preparation for surgeries. However, the use of powdered surgical gloves in operation rooms can affect the functionality of surgical equipment.
The glove powder causes contamination after landing on a surgical instrument and can alter its functionality. Therefore, it can be hazardous to risk the contamination of the sterile tools throughout such delicate procedures. For instance, some objects like scissors blades may not glide smoothly due to powder contamination.
The contamination of surgical tools due to glove powders can also result in surgical site infections. These infections can be severe, leading to morbidity or death. In short, using powdered gloves increases the chances of foreign substances (such as bacteria) entering the patients’ bodies and causing postoperative problems.
However, if you opt for powder-free gloves, you won’t have to be as worried when handling the surgery equipment. These gloves are much more efficient and don’t leave any debris on the objects they contact. Therefore, as a health worker, it’s recommendable to use powder-free gloves whenever you’re handling equipment inside an operating room.
9. To Save Healthcare Workers’ Time
It is essential to spend quality time with your patients. Moreover, the state of your work environment can impact a patient’s health either positively or negatively. Therefore, to ensure that your patients receive the best possible care, always ensure that your working area is clean and safe.
Saving time as a healthcare practitioner should be one of your priorities. For instance, if there’s an emergency, you’ll be able to deliver the safest care to the patient during the surgical procedure. However, you may have to slow down this process if you spend more time on other activities like cleaning your hands procedurally after wearing powdered gloves.
Although latex gloves prevent the transmission of infections, they can, at times, facilitate their spread. Therefore, according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, health workers should wash their hands thoroughly before and after using latex gloves. However, some practitioners (unprofessionally) still avoid washing hands after using latex gloves.
Washing hands is a lengthy procedure if you’ve been wearing powdered gloves since it’ll take a lot of time to remove all the residue from your hands. Furthermore, most powdered glove manufacturers recommend removing the glove with sterile water in a bucket and then cleaning your hands under a tap.
The cleaning procedure is more time-consuming after removing powdered gloves, as you can’t use alcohol-based sanitizers. Some powder may cling to your hands and not shed off quickly enough.
Moreover, the powder may form clumps in your nails, making it difficult to remove effectively. On the other hand, wearing powder-free gloves saves you time since you don’t have to deal with any powder clumps when washing your hands.
You’ll need to dispose of them appropriately and wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer. Moreover, non-powder gloves are skin-friendly since they lower the risks of skin irritations.
The use of powder-free gloves also encourages proper handwashing procedures among health care workers. For example, a study on hand-washing among healthcare workers in an Intensive Care Unit revealed that there was less hand hygiene compliance among those who wore powdered gloves. However, the introduction of powder-free gloves improved handwashing compliance among healthcare workers.
Get All of Your Medical Gloves From Allied USA
To save time and protect your hands from any potential skin problems, you can order the best non-powder gloves from our online shop. We’ve made it a priority to keep a wide variety of medical gloves, ensuring you’ll be able to get exactly what you need. Let us help you take care of your patients with the best of the best medical supplies!
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- Mayo Clinic: Asthma – Symptoms and causes
- Health Direct: Granulomas
- U.S. Food & Drug: FDA Proposes Ban On Most Powdered Medical Gloves
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