While latex gloves were once the only viable option for medical professionals, there are now a variety of non-latex gloves available alongside the traditional barrier of choice.
Latex is a low-cost, natural rubber, and gloves made of latex create a highly-effective barrier between the medical professional and the patient being treated or specimen being handled. This protects medical professionals from potential infectious substances and bodily fluids while also preventing contamination of specimens and the introduction of any matter that could negatively affect a patient’s ability to heal. Latex gloves are available coated with powder to make them easier to put on, but in the case of sterile environments and procedures, non-powdered gloves are standard. Latex is favored for its comfort and the high degree of dexterity and tactile sensitivity it preserves, but as many professionals have developed allergies to it over the years, alternatives have become necessary.
The goals of non-latex gloves are the same as those of latex gloves. They should provide a barrier, be comfortable, and should allow medical professionals to work with high precision. Some of the most common varieties of non-latex gloves include vinyl, neoprene and nitrile. During the early years of development of latex alternatives, they were cumbersome in comparison to latex, but most gloves now allow for just as much dexterity as latex gloves. Vinyl is the most low-cost of these options, but it is believed to lose its integrity more quickly than latex. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber that is less likely to cause allergic reactions, but it is more expensive than natural latex. Nitrile is considered the best latex alternative, as it does not cause allergic reactions, it creates and excellent barrier and is highly damage-resistant.
The main drawback to most alternatives is the high cost in comparison to latex gloves, but in cases where allergies prevent the use of latex, non-latex gloves are well-worth it.