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RCN issues dermatitis guidance for glove use


The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has published a new guide to highlight the importance of nurses and healthcare professionals’ hands and how to keep them healthy.

‘Tools of the trade’ focuses on how to prevent contact dermatitis and manage the risks involved in using gloves throughout a shift. Advice covers making sure staff select the most appropriate glove for particular tasks as well as what do do when signs of dermatitis appear.

Staff should look out for skin reactions to pressure, radiation, heat, chemicals and trauma which can all cause redness; warmth and dryness through to the formation of blisters; flaking and cracking; and itching.

Dermatitis can occur on any part of the body but the skin on the hands is the most commonly affected area. Wearing gloves for long periods increases the risk of developing dermatitis and using the wrong glove for a particular job can cause the condition to develop. For example using gloves that don’t protect against chemicals can lead to irritant dermatitis.

Using alcohol-based hand gels can also increase the risk of developing dermatitis.

Staff are warned to look out for symptoms and to seek advice from their occupational health service, GP or health and safety adviser.

Occupational dermatitis can be prevented following a three-step approach: avoid-protect-check.

Avoid direct contact between unprotected hands and hazardous substances and/or wet work where this is sensible and practical. Protect the skin if you cannot avoid contact. Check hands regularly for the first signs of itchy, dry or red skin.


Readers' comments (8)

  • my hospital was concerned about frequent and adequate hand washing, not what happened to nurses' skin as a result. mine cracked and the outer layer got rubbed off in patches and was very sore despite the use of the hand cream supplied by the pharmacy. The only way to overcome this was on some washes just applying soap or gel to the palm sides of my hands if it was just a socially clean wash and I hadn't been handling anything 'dirty' or before doing a dressing, or giving an injection.

    where is the reference to this new guide please?

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  • On the subject of gloves, does anyone find getting a really good fit over the fingers c. the non-latex ones easy to do and does anyone find their hands not getting sweaty if the gloves have been on for a bit? The previous latex gloves were, I found, much easier to put on and my hands didn't get hot and sticky.

    We know the reason for these non-latex gloves: pt. allergy to latex. Surely to goodness all that's needed is to ask the pt. whether (s)he is allergic; if the answer is "yes": fine, on c. the non-latex. Unless I'm much mistaken, a pt. will know whether (s)he has that allergy.

    A consultant at my hospital told me that the non-latex jobs are more expensive than the latex ones so, if I'm right about a pt. being aware of any latex allergy, there's an opportunity for the NHS to save a bit of cash.

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  • David Francis Seelig | 16-May-2012 12:33 pm

    what about the staff who have latex allergies or don't they matter?

    actually we had both to choose from. sometimes latex allergies only develop over a period of constant or prolonged use so it is not always initially apparent

    how do you expect all patients to know whether they are allergic or not. it is not a material one necessarily comes into contact with everyday unless you are a regular condom user and many of those are no longer latex!

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  • Anonymous 16-May-2012 12:48 pm

    Yes, of course staff matter - we all matter -and I should have added that.

    You're right, too, about allergic development - and I should have remembered that.

    You're also absolutely right in your last para.

    Thanks for putting me straight - I appreciate it and slightly chastened!!

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  • latex gloves are more expensive to purchase than vinyl or nitrile gloves

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  • Anonymous | 16-May-2012 5:14 pm

    in that case is there still a need for latex gloves? are they safer or better for those who are not allergic or are those you mention adequate and hypo-allergenic alternatives?

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  • There are hands that normally perspires, these type of hands are more prone to dermatitis.

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  • I was most horrified and still find it most horrifying despite numerous training, and one to one "talks" to see staff re-cycling gloves as a means of cutting costs!

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