What Are First Aid Gloves?

Dan Cavallari

In order to be protected from bacteria, blood-borne viruses, and other infections during the process of administering aid, a first aid provider will usually wear first aid gloves that cover the hands during contact with patients. These gloves can be made from latex, vinyl, or nitrile; the different materials accommodate patients and providers who may have allergies to certain materials. First aid gloves are usually required in medical settings to prevent the transmission of diseases, and they must be disposed of properly once the provider is finished using them.

First aid gloves are worn in a hospital to reduce the risk of transmitting disease.
First aid gloves are worn in a hospital to reduce the risk of transmitting disease.

Latex first aid gloves.
Latex first aid gloves.

Latex is the most common material used to make first aid gloves because it is lightweight, relatively easy to manufacture, inexpensive, and elastic enough to fit hands of various sizes. The gloves tend to prevent transmission of liquids, but if tearing occurs, the person wearing the gloves may be susceptible to transmission of diseases or infections. Latex can tear fairly easily, which means a risk of transmission still exists regardless of whether a provider is wearing them or not. Another drawback to latex is its tendency to adhere to the skin; to prevent this, a powder is usually applied to the first aid gloves which helps the user put the gloves on and take them off easily.

Many patients or providers have allergies to latex, so vinyl gloves can be used instead. Vinyl provides exceptional grip and comfort, and powder is not usually necessary to facilitate easy wearing or discarding. Powder on latex gloves can irritate the skin, which is why many people prefer to wear vinyl instead of latex. These gloves can be a bit more expensive than latex, but they also tend to resist tearing, especially when the vinyl gloves are thick and appropriate for medical use.

Nitrile gloves are made from an organic compound called nitrile that avoids the use of rubber compounds altogether. These first aid gloves are great for people with allergies to rubber or the powder used to coat latex gloves, and they offer superior puncture resistance while maintaining flexibility and usability. These are perhaps the most expensive first aid gloves of all the options, but they may be the only option for some people who commonly wear such gloves. Like other types of first aid gloves, nitrile gloves usually come packaged in a box from which the gloves can be pulled out one at a time when needed.

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