If you work in the medical or dental fields, in food prep, as a veterinarian, or in waste disposal, chances are high that latex gloves are a huge part of your daily routine.
Latex gloves are durable, create a barrier between your skin and chemicals or contaminated surfaces, and are approved by the FDA for safe use.
However, especially if you’ve consistently used latex gloves over a long period of time, it’s common for a latex glove allergy to develop. Some people are even born with a latex allergy.
Symptoms of an allergy to latex often include itching, redness and rash, a runny nose, watery eyes, and difficulty breathing. In extreme cases, you may even have a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction to latex.
You need to be able to stay safe on the job and protect your patients and others you work with from the spread of germs and disease—but you simply can’t wear latex gloves.
Read on to learn about some of the top latex glove alternatives for those with an allergy.
1. Switch to Vinyl Gloves
Vinyl gloves are a popular alternative to latex gloves, and they’re usually the first choice for those with an allergy or sensitivity to latex.
Also known as PVC, vinyl gloves are most often used in restaurants, grocery stores, and within the manufacturing industry. They’re the most affordable option, as they’re cheaper than latex gloves and many other materials on the market today.
They’re comfortable and completely free from both latex and rubber. (Learn more about how new laws require glove manufacturers to clearly test and label all the ingredients they use.)
They’re better suited for environments that don’t have many sharp objects or serious risks, and they’re ideal for quick tasks.
That being said, there are some drawbacks to using PVC gloves.
They’re not usually a good fit for medical use, and they’re not as flexible as latex gloves. In some cases, they may even cause you to have another type of allergic reaction. They’re also not meant for use in areas where you come into contact with chemicals.
Vinyl gloves also aren’t especially environmentally-friendly, as they have a low overall biodegradability rating.
2. Try Nitrile Gloves
If you suffer from a latex glove allergy and can’t use vinyl gloves in your workspace, you should look into nitrile gloves as a better alternative.
Because nitrile is a form of synthetic rubber, the manufacturers have complete control over the ingredients that are and aren’t included in the process.
This also means that it’s easier to offer different thicknesses of nitrile gloves, so you can get the ideal standard for your specific work environment. Many employees in the oil, auto manufacturing, and medical fields rely on nitrile gloves to help them get the job done.
Nitrile gloves are also FDA approved, are the strongest alternative option to latex gloves, and are resistant to punctures and chemicals. They also have a long overall shelf life, so you can buy in bulk to save without worry.
These gloves are dyed black, blue, or another bright color so that wearers can quickly spot any punctures or tears.
However, these advantages do come with a bit of a higher price tag. They also don’t offer quite the same level of elasticity as latex gloves do, and they’re not biodegradable.
Still, for many, they’re the best possible substitute for latex gloves.
3. Use Polymer Gloves
There are two main options when it comes to polymer gloves.
You can order gloves that are made entirely of polymer, or you can select latex gloves that have been coated in polymer.
Polymer gloves are usually used by those who work in the waste management industry, as they’re specifically designed to help prevent slime and gunk from sticking to the gloves.
If your latex allergies are on the less severe side, polymer-coated gloves may be all you need.
The thin but effective coating of polymer prevents your hands from coming into direct contact with latex, but you still get all the flexibility and durability of latex.
4. Order Neoprene Gloves
What’s the final alternative to latex gloves on our list?
Neoprene gloves—a material that’s most often used by those working within the oil and gas industry.
Neoprene was first created in the 1930s for its oil-resistant properties. This makes neoprene gloves a good fit for those in the auto and mechanic fields, as well.
Neoprene gloves are best suited for short-term jobs, and they won’t work well in environments where harsh chemicals are common.
They aren’t quite as resistant to punctures and tears as the other kinds of gloves on this list. Still, they’re effective at offering those in low-risk environments the level of protection they need.
Don’t Let a Latex Glove Allergy Compromise Your Safety
We hope this post has helped you to realize that those with a latex glove allergy have lots of other options when it comes to glove materials.
Just make sure that the durability and chemical protection abilities of the material you choose are a good fit with your workplace environment. Whenever possible, avoid shopping by price alone and read online reviews of specific glove manufacturers to get a feel for quality.
Curious about other steps you can take to make your office a safer place for everyone? Want to understand how to choose work uniforms and gear that guard against the biggest hazards in your factory?
Browse our online magazine for some additional advice on how to improve safety in the workplace, learn more about the equipment you’ll need to work efficiently, and much more.