The new blue in healthcareBlue Nitrile Gloves: The New Blue in Healthcare

What color do you think of when you imagine the protective rubber gloves your doctor or dentist wears? While that image, until now, has predominantly been white, it is slowly becoming blue and we’ll tell you why.

In fact, a good number of readers have already noticed this trend and no, it has nothing to do with color taste or preference. In fact, the new blue color signifies that almost certainly the gloves your healthcare worker is donning are made of nitrile rather than latex, and usually blue nitrile gloves. And you may expect to see more and more of the blue, because nitrile, a synthetic substitute for latex just recently developed in 2002, is stronger than latex and safer–safer for your healthcare worker and possibly for you as well. To be fair, latex gloves have been around for over a hundred years (they were invented in 1894), and they have served us well. While nitrile gloves are markedly more durable than latex, they aren’t as flexible and are not suited for more precise and delicate procedures requiring fine motor skills. While nitrile will most likely become the day-to-day workhouse gloves of the medical profession, there will still be a need for latex gloves. And since nitrile gloves are considerably more expensive (at least for now) than latex gloves, their use will probably continue to be widespread in environments where the risk of hazardous contamination is low.

So just what do we mean by rugged and how does that translate into nitrile gloves being safer than their latex counterparts? Well, what makes them ever-increasingly attractive to healthcare workers is that they more effectively address the two main hazards healthcare workers face:

When latex gloves have a pinhole tear or a tiny defect in them, the natural rubber tends to bind. This makes the tear unnoticeable but still leaves the worker in danger of potential contamination. Nitrile however, does not bind no matter how small the hole or tear; it splits. The split almost immediately grows large enough for the worker to notice, giving her plenty of warning time to sterilize her hand and re-glove.

Puncture wounds from infected syringe needles are no doubt the most common and dangerous hazard that healthcare workers face. While no glove that can be used practically can guarantee against a needle puncture, nitrile gloves are indeed puncture resistant and far better protect the healthcare professional from puncture wounds than latex gloves.

This most likely means of course that we can expect to nitrile gloves replacing latex for most standard medical procedures. So the next time you’re in a doctor’s or dentist’s office and see the professionals sporting blue gloves, you now know it’s not just a fad. They’re making themselves feel a whole lot safer, and you should feel safer too.

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