How You Can Protect Yourself from Type I and Type IV Allergies

Wearing glove products occasionally can lead to problems with the health of our skin. Mostly, this manifests itself in the form of skin allergies of varying types and severity. Recent studies have researched this range of allergies, their causes and what glove solutions are offered to aid in the prevention of these reactions.

How You Can Protect Yourself from Type I and Type IV Allergies

Image credit: Ansell

Skin allergies caused by adverse reactions to glove products are usually classified into three specific types; immediate hypersensitivity or Type I, delayed hypersensitivity or Type IV, and irritant contact dermatitis.

Type I allergies – repeated exposure to NRL

Adverse reactions to natural rubber latex (NRL) gloves can vary from irritant contact dermatitis to severe allergic reactions like anaphylaxis. Latex allergy is also known as Type I Allergy and is a reaction to the residual allergenic proteins found in NRL products. NRL is retrieved from the sap of the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis, originating in South Africa and Southeast Asia.

While there are over 250 different types of latex proteins, roughly 20% are allergenic. Repeated exposure to NRL products can lead to the production of antibodies; these antibodies react immunologically with these allergenic proteins in the immune system of a number of susceptible individuals.

There is an instant adverse reaction that occurs within minutes after the first contact with NRL. Symptoms associated with this reaction may include some or all of the following: swelling, redness at the site of contact, and sensation of itching and burning.

It is possible for symptoms to spread to areas close to the site of glove exposure and can be accompanied by: urticarial, conjunctivitis, rhinitis, and bronchial obstruction. Symptoms of anaphylaxis is rare but it is possible that it could occur.

Chemical accelerators influence most chemical allergies

Allergic reactions caused by chemical residues from the glove production process could possibly create what is known as a Type IV Allergy (Chemical Allergy) or ACD. Although this is not a life threatening type of allergy, it is a major concern for healthcare workers and individuals employed in the Life Science industry.

Glove producers use a range of chemicals to manufacture both NRL and synthetic rubber gloves. Different manufacturers use different chemical combinations and most manufacturers leach and wash their gloves to keep residual chemicals in the end product at a minimum.

A chemical allergy is the result of an immunological reaction to a residual chemical leached from completed glove products into the skin of the individual wearing the gloves.

The chemicals used in the glove production process are part of these broad classifications:

  • Accelerators
  • Accelerator activators
  • Stabilizers
  • Antidegradants
  • Retarders
  • Fillers
  • Extenders

The chemical accelerators cause most chemical allergies. The accelerator residues have become a huge concern because of their sensitizing abilities on users and the fact they can cause chemical allergic reactions. Reports show that more than 80% of glove associated allergic contact dermatitis is caused by chemical accelerators.

There is a delay in response, usually causing symptoms to show between 6-48 hours after the first contact with the glove, and symptoms may continue for up to 4 days. Symptoms can be identified as redness and swelling, dry skin to patch eczema, and chronic sores that are weeping or bleeding. A Type IV response starts when residual chemicals leaking from the glove enter the skin and trigger the development of T cells sensitized to the specific antigens.

Hand irritation and reaction triggers

Irritant contact dermatitis is experienced by a number of glove users. This is a non-immune reaction that takes place within minutes to hours of glove exposure. It is not an allergy, but rather a condition resulting from several factors in combination with glove usage. For instance, reactions to detergents/fragrance soap is due to hand washing frequently and inadequate rinsing/drying.

Symptoms can be seen where there is direct glove contact and include redness, chafing, scaling or cracking, and dryness of the skin. Reducing the risk of irritation can be achieved through minimizing contact with the causative subject, committing to a regular skin care routine, avoiding oil/fat based hand creams, and wearing gloves that are powder-free.

Type I latex allergy solutions  

In every case of repeated or continual dermatitis or allergic reactions linked to glove use, recommendations state to consult a medical practitioner. Skin allergies differ in potential severity and answers to these problems also differ.

Firstly, a Type I or true natural rubber latex allergy can be an extremely severe condition. In the case of a serious allergy, a synthetic product is suitable and needs to be the alternative that is worn, rather than a natural rubber latex glove.

Colleagues operating in the same environment as someone allergic to NRL should don either a synthetic glove or an NRL glove that is powder-free. The donning powder on NRL powdered gloves is considered a potential carrier of allergenic NRL proteins which can become airborne and possible inhaled by the user.

Synthetic material choices

Polyisoprene

Polyisoprene has a comparable performance to natural rubber latex with a high level of comfort, brilliant elasticity and moderate strength.

Neoprene

Characteristic performance of neoprene falls between polyisoprene and nitrile with an average balance of comfort, strength and elasticity.

Nitrile

Nitrile is stronger, more durable and puncture resistance when compared to natural rubber latex. However, it does sacrifice some elasticity.

Type IV contact dermatitis solutions

Individuals experiencing a Type IV reaction should follow the product recommendations, however they are slightly more complex. Firstly, the causative chemical agent needs to be identified and then eliminated. There are many classes of chemicals that often lead to adverse skin reactions, so an enhanced understanding of the chemicals used and why they are needed is required.

Is it necessary to have accelerators?

To achieve successful production of a glove from a rubber material, a type of chemical accelerator is typically used. Accelerators are employed to chemically quicken the vulcanization process during the production of natural and synthetic latex gloves.

Vulcanization is one stage in the procedure where crude latex is transformed into a final product. This is usually achieved by subjecting the crude latex to heat and sulfur in order to cross-link the rubber molecules. This renders a solid film with a chosen strength and elastic properties dependent upon the design components and type of material.

These chemical accelerators quicken the vulcanization process by decreasing the temperature at which vulcanization occurs creating a much more consistent and reliable film from which the complete gloves are created. Accelerator classes frequently used in glove production are thiurams, mercaptobenzothiazols (MBT) and carbamates. Carbamates are the least likely to produce a skin reaction out of these classes of accelerators.

Are accelerators safe?

For personal protective gloves, producers need to ensure the product is safe for use. This is usually completed by performing two skin irritation tests, one long term and one short term, on the final glove product. Currently, regulations in the majority of geographic regions require this of medical grade gloves.

For example, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) necessitates that all medical grade gloves pass both the skin irritation test and the skin sensitization test before being marketed in the US.

These tests guarantee that most glove users will not experience any kind of irritation as a reaction to the glove itself. Other regions like the European Union, under the Medical Device Directive (93/42/EEC) require similar forms of testing and product assessment prior to products being marketed.

Product quality affects possible reactions

With regards to allergic contact dermatitis as a result of chemicals used in disposable gloves, the production process and how well a glove is manufactured can largely decrease the possibility of reactions. On a well manufactured glove product, residual chemicals are leached out of the glove before packaging. For products that are poorly produced, this leaching process is not always as useful as it should be and the result is an increased potential for more people experiencing a skin reaction.

Is it possible to produce a glove without accelerators?

The short answer is yes! Ansell offers products that are specially designed for customers that may have extremely sensitive skin. These products are manufactured without using any of chemical accelerators listed above, or any alternative chemical accelerators.

Proper vulcanization is completed, without the use of any chemical accelerators. This is done through an exclusive process that reinforces the material without the use of chemical accelerators. The result of this process is a cleaner, more skin-friendly product that offers the optimal solution when the barrier protection of a glove is required and healthy skin for your sensitive hands.

The Ansell solution

Ansell has developed a variety of options in the synthetic category for glove wearers with Type I or Type IV allergies. There are numerous different synthetic materials to select, inclusive of nitrile, neoprene and polyisoprene. Performance characteristics and cost vary for these materials. Products may also have unique design features for certain applications, which should be considered in any glove choices.

For wearers with Type IV allergies or sensitivities, Ansell provides products that are manufactured without the use of any chemical accelerators. The TouchNTuff® 73-500, TouchNTuff® 73-701 and the MICROFLEX® 93-823 are just a few Ansell gloves that are ideal solutions for any individual with extremely sensitive skin or anyone who is struggling to find a glove that is the least irritating to their skin. Not only have these products been specially designed to solve this specific issue, but it has been scientifically proven to be less likely to cause the types of reactions mentioned above.

Information on the different types of gloves available from Ansell can be found at: https://www.ansell.com/gb/en/life-sciences/life-sciences-products/gloves?filter=Material.eq.any(neoprene+(polychloroprene)%2cpi+(polyisoprene))&page=1&page_size=12

About Ansell

For over a century, Ansell has delivered the most advanced protection solutions to millions of people…at work, at home and in harm’s way.

In 1905, Eric Ansell recognized an opportunity when his employer was looking to dispose of some manufacturing equipment. With this discarded machinery, he founded what was to become the Ansell Rubber Company, initially a balloon & condom company that eventually expanded into surgical, household and work gloves.

In the years since, millions of people have come to rely on Ansell’s innovative products and safety solutions to protect them at home or on the job. The same dedication to quality and innovation that started with Eric Ansell, continues today, as Ansell has grown to serve 25 global industries in 120 countries in ways that shape and protect our modern world.

Ansell is SAFETY. We protect the most valuable asset of any company — its people."

Magnus Nicolin, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer


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Last updated: Sep 3, 2021 at 7:39 AM

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