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Ten Truths About Gloves

Take this quiz to see if you know what you should about gloves

by Dennis Ernst • June 18, 2019


gloved hands in shape of heart

Gloves are an integral part of personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals assigned blood specimen collection responsibilities, and are a key component of every infection control program. But how much do you know about the quality and limitations of the gloves you wear? Do you inspect every pair that you don? Do you know the glove type that is most likely to leak? Do gloves have an expiration date? To test your knowledge, answer the true/false statements below:

  1. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), manufacturing standards state that it's acceptable for patient examination gloves to have holes.

True – The FDA lowered the defect rate for patient examination medical gloves is 2.5 percent.(1,2) This means that up to ten exam gloves in a lot of 500 can be defective and still  comply with the FDA’s standard. Because defects may occur during the manufacturing process, every pair of gloves should be inspected before use.

  1. Hot, sweaty hands can compromise the integrity of latex gloves.

 True – In approximately 50 minutes, heat and perspiration emitted by the hands can break down latex to the point that viruses such as hepatitis B and HIV can penetrate. To ensure uncompromised barrier protection, a latex glove should not be worn for more than 30 minutes.

  1. Compared to latex and nitrile, vinyl is less likely to leak and allow penetration of organisms.

False – Vinyl gloves are more likely to leak and allow pathogens to pass through when compared to latex and nitrile. Nitrile is superior to latex and vinyl in terms of resisting perforation. But when holes do occur in nitrile gloves, they enlarge much quicker. From a material integrity standpoint, latex or nitrile gloves are preferable to vinyl for clinical procedures that require manual dexterity and/or involve more than brief patient contact.(3)

  1. Chemicals can dissolve gloves.

True – The most common types of gloves used in clinical laboratories are susceptible to the effects of a variety of chemicals. No one glove material is resistant to all chemicals. For example, some petroleum-based hand lotions can dissolve latex. If unsure about a particular chemical’s effect on the gloves you wear, check the chemical penetrance charts published by the glove manufacturer.

  1. Latex gloves should be dated when opened and discarded after three months.

True – Latex can be compromised by a variety of environmental factors, including exposure to:

  • ozone;
  • x-rays;
  • UV light;
  • temperatures above 33 degrees Celsius;
  • humidity levels exceeding 40 percent.

To prevent latex degradation, gloves should be stored in a cool and dry environment, free from electrical equipment or light sources. Date individual boxes when they are opened and discard any remaining gloves after three months.(1)

  1. Latex gloves have been known to spontaneously combust.

True - In 1996, the FDA issued a public health advisory after the spontaneous combustion of latex gloves caused four fires in different states.(4) The fires occurred in warehouses where large quantities of non-sterile, powder-free, latex gloves that had been imported from China were stored on pallets. The most important contributing factors identified were extreme heat and the bulk of gloves stored, with the FDA making the following recommendations:

  • Avoid a large inventory of powder-free latex gloves.
  • Remove shrink wrap from pallets of stacked cartons.
  • Restack/reconfigure cartons to promote cooling ventilation.
  • Regularly check gloves for signs of deterioration, such as discoloration, brittleness, tackiness, or an acrid chemical odor.
  • Rotate glove stock using “first-in-first-out” practices.
  1. Latex particles can become airborne if powder is present in latex gloves.

True – When powder is present in latex gloves, the protein responsible for latex allergies can attach to it. When gloves are removed, the particles can become airborne for up to five hours and serve as a route of exposure to others who are sensitive to latex. Because of the potential for respiratory reactions in allergic individuals, it is generally recommended that latex gloves containing powder be avoided. However, advancements with latex glove manufacturing technologies provide the option of powder-free latex with lower protein content.(3)

  1. The reactions associated with latex allergy are always mild.

False – The reactions experienced in patients and healthcare workers sensitive to natural rubber latex can range from mild to life-threatening.(3) The number of healthcare workers experiencing latex allergies or hypersensitivity is estimated to be 2 to 17 percent.(3) The FDA has received reports of 15 healthcare worker deaths directly attributable to exposure to medical devices that contain latex.(5)

  1. The barrier integrity of any glove may be compromised by routine practices.

True – Jewelry, long fingernails, and artificial nails may snag or puncture gloves and should be avoided. Incompatible hand lotions may compromise the glove’s integrity and improper donning, such as pulling too hard on gloves, may tear them. If the fit is too loose, the glove may catch on equipment or other objects. If too tight, the glove is subject to tear due to excessive stress.(3)

  1. Gloves provide no protection against a needlestick.

False - Studies show that when a contaminated needle pierces a glove, the material of the glove wipes off up to 86 percent of the blood from the needle before it passes into your tissue. That means you have a lesser inoculation of whatever virus could be in the blood that you’re exposed to.(6)



  1. Davis, D. Gloves: Lab Safety: Uncommon Knowledge About Common Objects. Lab Med 2008;39(9):576.
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Food and Drug Administration. 21CFR800.20; Subpart B--Requirements for Specific Medical Devices; Patient examination gloves and surgeons' gloves; sample plans and test method for leakage defects; adulteration. Accessed 6/18/2019.
  3. Experts Address Glove-Related Latex Allergies. Inf Cntrl Today. Accessed 6/18/2019.
  4. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Public Health Advisory: Potential risk of spontaneous combustion in large quantities of patient examination gloves. June 27, 1996. Accessed 6/18/2019.
  5. Latex Allergy. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. Accessed 6/18/2019.
  6. Ernst D. Ernst C. (ed) The Lab Draw Answer Book. Center for Phlebotomy Education. Corydon, Indiana. 2017.


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