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Non-latex gloves are disposable gloves which are made with a material other than latex. Latex has classically been the material of choice for disposable gloves because it is reasonably inexpensive, and extremely flexible, making latex gloves comfortable to wear. While wearing latex gloves, people can perform a wide variety of tasks as though they are not wearing gloves at all, with the gloves providing protection without hindering movement.
The issue with latex gloves is that some people are allergic to natural latex rubber. Reactions to latex gloves can vary from mild dermatitis to difficulty breathing, with latex allergies on the rise due to an increased use of latex products for barrier protection. The AIDS epidemic led to an explosion in the use of latex gloves, and a corresponding rise in latex allergies among health care workers and patients. As a result, several companies began developing alternatives to latex gloves.
Several synthetic materials can be used to make non-latex gloves, including neoprene, poly vinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl), and nitrile. In all cases, the goal is to provide barrier protection without compromising freedom of movement. Early non-latex gloves were often slightly cumbersome to use, and difficult to don, but many companies have resolved this issue, making gloves which are easy to put on and simple to use.
There is one major drawback to these gloves. They tend to be more expensive than latex gloves, which can make them a costly item to stock in medical clinics, first aid kits, ambulances, and hospitals. Some facilities keep a mix of latex and latex-free gloves on hand, with health workers selecting the glove which is most appropriate for a task. If a health care worker is allergic to latex, he or she would use non-latex gloves, and they would also be used on patients with a declared latex allergy.
Non-latex gloves come in a range of colors, textures, and sizes. Many companies try to use very distinctive colors for their gloves so that it is easy to identify the latex-free gloves in a hurry, and latex-free gloves may also be stored in a different location to ensure that they are not confused with latex gloves.
When buying packages of non-latex gloves, it is a good idea to confirm that they do provide barrier protection, and to try on a pair of gloves, if possible. The gloves should fit snugly without feeling restrictive, and it should be easy to pull the gloves on without causing rips or tears.