Skin conditions caused by chemical, physical or biological agents in the workplace are common among disposable glvoe wearers in the industrial sector. Understanding the nature and contributing causes of these conditions allow safety managers to develop policies and make purchasing decisions that will assist in both reducing the risk of allergy and managing any existing conditions.

Understanding Allergies

Type 1 Allergy

Adverse reactions to natural rubber latex (NRL) gloves can reange from irritant contact dermatitis to serious allergic response such as anaphylaxis. Latex allergy, also known as Type 1 allergy, is a reaction to the residual allergic proteins present in NRL products

After repeated exposure to NRL products, the immune system of susceptible individuals produces antibodies that react immunologically with these allergenic proteins. There is an immediate adverse reaction occuring within minutes after initial contact with NRL

The symptoms may include some, or all, of the following:

  • Swelling
  • Redness on the site of the exposure
  • Itching and burning sensation

Symptoms can spread to areas near the site of glove contact and can be accompanied by:

  • Hives
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Hay fever symptoms, such as running nose and itchy eyes.
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties, including wheezing

Symptoms of anaphylaxis are rare, but can occur.

Type 4 Allergy

Allergic reactions to chemical residues from the glove manufacturing process may produce what is known as a Type IV allergy (chemical allergy) or allergic contact dermatitis (ACD).

A chemical allergy is due to an immunological reaction to a residual chemical leached from finished glove products into the skin of the wearer. It is a delayed response with symptons exhibiting anywhere between 6-48 hours after initial contact with the glove, and symptoms may persist for up to 4 days. Sufferers experience a range of symptoms including: skin redness, blistering, oozing, swelling, and itching located at the area of contact with the glove. The skin can become dry, cracked and scaly, and the rash may extend beyond the contact area site.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

The most common (non-allergic) adverse skin reaction to disposable gloves is irritant contact dermatitis. The condition shares many of the same symptoms as ACD, but does not involve the immune system and the underlying cause is different. It is exacerbated by sweating or friction and occurs through frequent hand washing, exposure to harsh soaps and scrubs, or the use of abrasive hand towels. It can occur within minutes or hours of contact

Symptoms are limited to where there is direct glove exposure and include redness, chafing, dryness, and scaling or cracking. To reduce the risk of irritation, it is recommended to minimise contact with the causative agent, commit to regular skin care, avoid oil/fat based hand creams, and wear powder-free gloves. 

Isolate The Offender:

In all cases of repeat or persistant dermatitis or allergic reaction associated with glove use, it is recommended to consult a medical practitioner. Since skin allergies vary in possible severity, solutions to these problems also vary.

All of the above information was provided by Ansell in their Glove Allergies And Hand Health Safety Briefing, for your own copy of the briefing please click here

To see our range of disposable gloves, please click here