FAQ - Synthetic Gloves
How are synthetic vinyl gloves compared to latex gloves?
Vinyl (PVC) is just one of the synthetic materials used in the manufacturing of exam gloves. However, research has shown that vinyl gloves are generally not thought of as strong as latex gloves and they can be punctured more easily. They fit loosely to the hands due to their limited ability to stretch, and in the past, were not as good as latex gloves in barrier protection.
Latex gloves, with their excellent durability, fit better and more comfortably on the hands and have better stretch characteristics with more elasticity. They are stronger and provide superior barrier protection. Overall, latex gloves out perform vinyl gloves in both function and protection.
However individuals, who are allergic to latex protein (Immediate Type I), should avoid contact with all latex products, and wear only non-latex, synthetic gloves. There are also other alternatives of non-latex gloves besides vinyl gloves such as nitrile and chloroprene.
Switching to vinyl gloves may not eliminate the risk of irritant contact dermatitis or chemical hypersensitivity (Type IV) reaction, because these can be caused by the residual chemicals used in the manufacturing of both vinyl, nitrile and latex gloves, rather than just the latex.
Glove choice should also be appropriate to the situation. One should consider wearing non latex gloves (such as vinyl) when the superior barrier protection of latex is not needed. So, for example, a very short procedure with minimal prospect for blood or body fluid contact might be one for which a vinyl glove could be considered an acceptable choice.
Even with synthetic rubbers, there are still numerous chemicals involved in manufacture. Once more, there will be differences from one manufacturer to the next. It is still possible to have a serious Type IV allergic reaction (contact dermatitis) to a synthetic rubber. However, Type I natural latex allergy does not occur in response to synthetic rubber and these gloves are therefore required when treating a patient with known type I hypersensitivity, or for the health care worker who has either become type I sensitized or cannot find a suitable latex glove because of type IV allergy.