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A handy guide for appropriate glove use

Martyn Hodgkinson
April 23, 2019



Within the healthcare industry, glove use has become a key aspect of ward culture and is considered to be an important control measure for protecting both patients and staff. Yet inappropriate glove use can often lead to hand dermatitis – a painful condition that affects one in five nurses and may require nursing staff to be moved out of clinical areas due to the risk of infection from damaged skin.

Ahead of The Royal College of Nursing’s Glove Awareness Week – which kicks off on Monday 29th April – SC Johnson Professional™ takes a look at when gloves should be worn, the importance of skin health and how to prevent, recognise and manage work-related dermatitis.



When should gloves be used?


The use of gloves has risen dramatically over the years, with an estimated 1.5 billion boxes of them being supplied annually to the NHS in England alone. However, while gloves appear to provide a physical barrier, staff should be aware that complete protection or contamination prevention of their hands cannot be guaranteed with just gloves.



While gloves help to create a barrier between germs and hands, the prolonged use of gloves can lead to a lack of hand hygiene compliance, resulting in the spread of infection between patients and staff, and the passing of germs from one patient to the next.



Prolonged use of gloves can also increase the risk of work-related dermatitis due to exposure to the substance or chemicals used to manufacture them and because the skin can become over-hydrated leading to a disrupted barrier function. In addition, if workers do develop dermatitis, they are less likely to wash their hands due to the pain, thus resulting in the spread of infection further.



Individual healthcare organisations will have their own procedures and policies in place to advise staff when to wear gloves. However, the Royal College of Nursing recommends that disposable gloves should only be worn if you’re performing or assisting in a procedure that involves a risk of contact with body fluids, broken skin, dirty instruments and harmful substances such as chemicals and disinfectants.



Gloves should not be routinely used and should only be put on in specific circumstances where procedures might involve;


  • a risk of being splashed by body fluids
  • contact with the patient’s/client’s eyes, nose, ears, lips, mouth or genital area, or any instruments that have been in contact with these,
  • contact with an open wound or cut
  • while handling potentially harmful substances, such as disinfectants



The gloves should fit comfortably, be changed between patients and between different tasks with the same patient and should never be washed or reused.



Hand hygiene is key to prevention


Gloves alone are not sufficient in preventing the transmission of germs and should never be treated as a substitute for hand hygiene. It is recommended that hand hygiene is carried out before putting gloves on, in-between glove changes, and after gloves have been removed. The NHS and the World Health Organisation advise that washing your hands properly should take as long as singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, around 20 seconds.


Use of hand creams or conditioning creams should be encouraged as a minimum at the end of each work period to replenish the skin moisture levels.



Glove Awareness Week


Coinciding with World Hand Hygiene Day on 5th May, the Royal College of Nursing’s Glove Awareness Week highlights the importance of hand skin health and appropriate glove use to all nurses, midwives, health practitioner members, students and healthcare organisations worldwide.


As part of Glove Awareness Week, the Royal College of Nursing will be hosting a one-day event on Thursday 2nd May to challenge, celebrate and debate the use of gloves as part of the delivery of health and care in all settings.

 Download the Glove Awareness resources


To find out more about Glove Awareness Week, visit






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