Although latex is one of the most widely available disposable glove types on the market, people who are highly sensitive to latex gloves may develop an adverse reaction to latex. They can range from benign reactions like skin irritation and rashes to life-threatening ones such as shortness of breath and shock.
Vinyl is one of the many possible latex-free alternative materials for disposable gloves. However, is it safe? Is it possible to develop an allergic reaction to vinyl gloves? What are the effects of vinyl glove allergies?
What is Vinyl?
Vinyl is short for Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, one of the most common plastic polymers in the world. Unlike latex, which can be natural (rubber tree sap) or synthetic, vinyl is a 100% synthetic material. In other words, all vinyl gloves are synthetic gloves.
Gloves made of PVC are waterproof and moderately resistant to many other fluids, such as blood, dyes, detergents, and chemical compounds, though not as much as medical-grade gloves made of different materials.
Vinyl is also very inexpensive to produce, resulting in a lower price tag than disposable gloves made of other materials.
Potential Negative Effects of Vinyl Gloves
There are three main types of glove reactions: Type I hypersensitivity (immediate), Type IV hypersensitivity (delayed), and irritation.
- Type I hypersensitivity can cause different effects within 30 minutes of contact, such as urticaria, conjunctivitis, severe itches, and cramps. Severe cases may lead to chest pains, tremors, anaphylactic shock, and even death.
- Type IV hypersensitivity is much milder, only causing rashes and allergic contact dermatitis (itching, skin lesions, dryness, scaling) and appearing up to 48 hours after initially wearing gloves.
- Non-allergenic irritation is the least life-threatening condition and typically the result of repeated glove-wearing. Washing your hands with mild soap and taking a break from wearing gloves for a few days is the best treatment.
According to a 2016 study, approximately 4.3% of the general population and about 9.7% of healthcare workers wearing disposable medical gloves experience latex allergies.
People who have latex allergies can experience any of the three types of glove reactions. Therefore, they must use gloves made of alternative materials to reduce the risk of life-threatening conditions.
Although vinyl glove allergies exist, they are extremely rare, and the effects are comparatively very mild; there are few recorded cases, virtually all of which cause Type IV reactions. The reactions usually come from contact with glove powder or sulfur-based chemical accelerants instead of the PVC material.
It is critical not to confuse irritation or symptoms caused by glove tearing, damaging, or failing to protect the wearer’s hands adequately with allergic effects. All disposable gloves are prone to tearing to some degree, and direct exposure to specific substances and chemical compounds can cause effects similar to irritation or hypersensitivity.
Many glove manufacturers offer vinyl gloves with no additives to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction, such as powder-free gloves and sulfur-based accelerator-free gloves. If you develop contact urticaria, consider switching to a vinyl glove with higher breathability or changing gloves and washing your hands more frequently.
Alternatives to Latex and Vinyl
Even though vinyl is an excellent alternative material to latex, vinyl gloves are not without their drawbacks.
The primary reason for using latex is due to that material’s durability, high degree of dexterity and touch sensitivity, and resistance to various fluids and chemicals.
Compared to latex, vinyl is less durable, less sensitive, and more prone to tearing and breaking down.
If neither is an option for you, nitrile may be the best compromise between the durability of latex gloves and the safety of vinyl material. Like vinyl, nitrile is a 100% synthetic and latex-free material.
Nitrile gloves offer more protection to wearers than vinyl gloves due to their higher durability, tear resistance, and chemical exposure resistance.
Like vinyl, nitrile gloves are available with and without powder and sulfur-based accelerants, capable of causing the same rare Type IV reactions. Always ensure that sensitive personnel has access to powder-free and accelerant-free alternatives.
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ICU Production, Inc. is an industry-leading personal protective equipment (PPE) provider. We offer a wide range of equipment necessary for healthcare professionals, from surgical masks and face shields to medical gowns and disposable gloves.
Our clients include Fortune 500 corporations, local institutions, and even government organizations. For more information about our PPE, call us at (323) 881-3279.