Powder-free gloves decrease claims for latex illnesses, study finds
Health care 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. A powder such as cornstarch is often added to make it easier to slip on or remove the gloves. The powder provides a dry grip for contact with moist hands and also makes it more difficult for gloves to tear. However, researchers from Geisinger Health Systems, said powder can aggravate latex allergies. Allergic reactions caused by latex exposure can range from simple itching to anaphylactic shock.
In 2001, clinicians from Geisinger, which serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout central and northeastern Pennsylvania, stopped using powdered latex gloves. A study in a recent edition of the medical journal Dermatitis examined what happened after Geisinger made the change. Researchers found that the number of workers' comp claims for latex illnesses among Geisinger employees fell from 12 per year in the five years before the transition to 4.5 claims per year in the four years after the transition. The average workers' comp payment to employees fell from $34,789 to $2,505.
While Geisinger's cost increased initially with the new gloves, officials said most of that expense was offset by decreased workers' comp claims, as well as spending on water and soap to clean the powder.
"The transition away from powdered latex gloves should decrease the chance of sensitization to the latex protein in health care workers," said Patricia Malerich, primary author of the study and a dermatologist at Geisinger. "Although we examined the effects on health care 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."
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July 16, 2009
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