Powder Free Gloves in Hospitals Decreases Allergy Risk

Using powder-free latex gloves rather than those with cornstarch powder greatly reduced the number of workers’ compensation claims related to latex-related illness, a recent Geisinger study found.

Healthcare workers use latex gloves to reduce the spread of infection and disease when caring for patients. The gloves also protect workers from exposure to chemicals, bodily fluids and other potentially dangerous substances.

Often, a powder such as cornstarch is added to make it easier to slip on or remove the gloves. The powder provides a dry grip for contact with moist hands. The powder also makes it more difficult for gloves to tear. But, powder can aggravate latex allergies. Allergic reactions caused by latex exposure range from simple itching to anaphylactic shock.

In 2001, Geisinger Health System clinicians stopped using powdered latex gloves. A study in a recent edition of the medical journal Dermatitis examined what happened after Geisinger made the change:
• The number of workers’ compensation claims for latex illness among Geisinger employees fell from 12 per year in the five years before the transition to four-and-a-half claims per year in the four years after the transition.
• The average workers’ compensation payment to employees fell from $34,789 to $2,505.

While Geisinger’s cost increased initially with the new gloves, most of that increase was offset by decreased workers’ compensation claims as well as spending on water and soap to clean the powder, the study noted.

“The transition away from powdered latex gloves should decrease the chance of sensitization to the latex protein in healthcare workers,” said Patricia Malerich, M.D., primary study author and Geisinger dermatologist. “Although we examined the effects on healthcare workers, we hope that this decreased exposure to latex proteins carried in powdered gloves will also lead to fewer allergic reactions in latex-sensitive patients.”

About Geisinger Health System
Founded in 1915, Geisinger Health System is one of the nations largest integrated health services organizations. Serving more than 2.6 million residents throughout central and northeastern Pennsylvania, the physician-led organization is a nationally recognized leader in the use of electronic health records, patient access and engagement in their healthcare, and in medical education for the next generation.

Geisinger is comprised of three medical center campuses, a 740-member group practice, a not-for-profit health insurance company and research that extends across our large system- all dedicated to creating new models for scientific discovery, quality patient care, and successful clinical outcomes. Geisinger’s Weis Center, Center for Health Research and Center for Clinical Studies include basic science, population-based and clinical trials research, complemented by collaborative relationships with top academic centers. Geisinger Ventures, the system’s for profit entrepreneurial arm, seeks and promotes opportunities to speed the delivery of medical innovation to benefit patients.

Source: Geisinger Health System

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