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When Do You Need Sterile Gloves?

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In a medical setting, cleanliness and sanitation are paramount. Health workers must wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) such as medical-grade masks, surgical caps and footwear covers. Sterile gloves are also an important part of medical practice. They are used to protect the health worker and the patient from getting exposed to harmful microorganisms.

But when exactly is it necessary to use sterile gloves? When is it appropriate to use non-sterile gloves in a medical facility? In this blog, we’ll discuss the differences between sterile and non-sterile gloves as well as their various applications. In addition, we’ll also touch on the distinctions between latex and nitrile gloves and why you might want to use one over the other.

Use of sterile and non-sterile gloves

Sterile gloves are free from any germs and microorganisms. Any invasive surgical tasks that involve making contact with blood or other bodily fluids require sterile gloves. These gloves protect healthcare workers from cross-contamination and exposure to infectious substances. They prevent the spread of diseases such as hepatitis, HIV and AIDS.

Non-sterile gloves, on the other hand, are not completely free of bacteria and germs. This means their use must be limited to non-surgical and non-invasive tasks.

According to the BMJ, such tasks include:

  • Handling bio-sanitary waste
  • Secretion and urine management
  • Obtaining samples
  • Post-mortem care
  • Cleaning certain medical equipment
  • Handling cytostatic

When using either sterile or non-sterile gloves, it’s important that your hands are clean. Medical gloves are used as added protection against contamination and it is not to be treated as a substitute for good hygienic practices.

How to wear sterile gloves?

To ensure the safety and well-being of medical patients and healthcare workers, it’s important that both sterile and non-sterile gloves are worn properly.

Before wearing the gloves, all jewelry and other accessories must be removed from your hands. If you have cuts or sores, they must be covered completely.

The sterile glove package must be cleaned before it is opened. If the package has been opened or damaged, the gloves have likely been contaminated and will need to be replaced.

You must wear the gloves by using the inner cuff of the glove. Once they’re on, keep your hands above waist level. Do not touch non-sterile objects or surfaces while wearing sterile gloves.

In addition, all the tools and equipment need to be laid out for easy access before the gloves are worn. The gloves must be replaced when you’re taking care of a different patient or about to take part in a separate surgical procedure.

Latex vs. Nitrile gloves

In medical settings, it’s also important to know whether to use latex or nitrile gloves. Nitrile gloves are slightly more expensive than its latex counterpart due to their durability and chemical resistance. Latex gloves, on the other hand, are more cost-effective and offer more dexterity.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of nitrile and latex gloves: 

  • Nitrile
    • Durable and offers some protection against punctures and tears
    • Five-year shelf life
    • Resistant to oils, petroleum products and weak acids
  • Latex
    • Made from natural materials and is biodegradable
    • Gives the user more tactile sensitivity and dexterity
    • More cost-effective than nitrile gloves

It’s also important to note that latex allergies are common in medical settings. When exposed to latex, those with allergies can experience rashes, a cough, a runny nose or even difficulty breathing. Because of this, it’s essential that you understand the health and safety requirements of all of the employees in your workplace before buying latex gloves.

Since some gloves are powdered, the allergens may also become airborne, causing serious allergic reactions to nearby individuals. As such, it’s best to use powder-free nitrile and/or latex gloves in medical settings.

The ongoing global pandemic has made us all conscious of personal cleanliness and best hygienic practices. Certainly, the use of protective gloves is important and needs to be accounted for in workplaces, public places and, more importantly, medical settings. Hopefully, this short blog has given you a better understanding of sterile gloves and how they are used in various situations.

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