Types of Dermatitis Caused by Nitrile Gloves and How to Avoid It

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Published: 18th January 2011
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For healthcare workers and other professionals who must wear hand protection, allergies caused by latex or the chemicals in non-latex gloves are a serious issue. As much as 17% of healthcare workers experience glove related allergic reactions. In order to avoid developing a possible life threatening latex allergy, many healthcare facilities have transitioned to nitrile gloves. These gloves, however, can also cause painful skin reactions and allergy.

Types of Glove Skin Reactions

    Irritant Contact Dermatitis - This skin reaction is usually confined to the area of contact. Hands become red and dry, with itchy irritated patches. Prolonged irritant contact dermatitis can lead to dry, thickened skin, crusting, painful deep cracks, scabbing sores and peeling. This kind of skin reaction is caused by toxic chemicals, excessive perspiration, some chemicals in hand care products, and chemicals used in the production of non-latex gloves, including nitrile gloves.

    Allergic Contact Dermatitis (Type IV delayed Hypersensitivity) - This skin reaction is also usually confined to the area of contact. Skin gets itchy, with a red rash and small blisters. Eventually the sufferer develops dry, thickened skin, crusting, scabbing sores, vesicles and peeling - generally 4 to 96 hours after wearing gloves. Allergic Contact Dermatitis can be caused by sterilants and disinfectants, bonding agents, local anesthetics, and chemical accelerators used in the manufacture of non-latex gloves, including nitrile exam gloves.

Chemical accelerators, such as thiurams, Mercaptobenzothiazoles (MBT) and Dithiocarbamates are frequently used in the manufacturing process. These chemicals are added to provide elasticity and allow cross-linking of the material to give nitrile exam gloves strength and improve shelf life.

Chemical accelerators in non-latex gloves, including nitrile gloves, neoprene and polyisoprene gloves, have been reported as causing allergic contact dermatitis or Type IV delayed hypersensitivity. Although this kind of reaction can also be caused by lanolin and some fragrances in skin care products, chemical accelerators in nitrile exam gloves are a major cause.

Fortunately, new production methods have been developed to eliminate the use of these chemicals in some products. These gloves are made without the use of traditional chemical accelerators, and are a safer choice for persons that develop irritant contact dermatitis. It is also an excellent choice for healthcare workers and other professionals that prefer to wear hand protection with fewer chemicals.

S. Leach writes for Cenergen.com, distributor of accelerator free HandPro Aspen2100AF Nitrile Gloves from Hourglass Industries, Inc., with low dermatitis potential.

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