How to choose medical examination gloves

Nitrile examination gloves


Are you sure that you and your staff are protected? Read more to find out…


Latex, nitrile and vinyl are the most common disposable glove materials. Each material is suitable for certain uses.

For example, natural rubber latex comes from the Brazilian rubber tree. Latex gloves offer good barrier protection, close fit and flexibility. However, latex use in medical gloves has been dropping in recent years. The downside of latex is latex allergies, ranging from skin irritation to anaphylaxis – a life-threatening condition.

A newer material, nitrile, is nearly as strong and flexible as latex, without the allergy risk. Whereas Latex is natural, nitrile is synthetic. Nitrile gloves find use in all industries and protect both the worker and the materials being handled. These days, medical examination gloves now most often use nitrile.

Vinyl is an inexpensive option, best for activities that do not require great sensitivity or protection. Gloves made of this material are a popular choice for the food industry. However, vinyl gloves do not offer enough protection for most medical tasks.


Most medical applications use nitrile gloves. The thickness of these gloves is measured in mil; one mil equals 1/1000 of an inch. 3-4 mil gloves are suitable for most medical and dental applications; they provide good protection and great sensitivity and dexterity. 5-6 mil gloves provide enhanced durability but less sensitivity and dexterity; these are better for procedures involving potentially infectious body fluids. 7-8 mil gloves provide yet higher protection and are usually reserved for higher risk applications, such as Emergency Medical Services and handling of hazardous substances.


Finger tip and/or palm texturing provides better grip. This is especially important when gloves become wet. Most gloves today are textured.


Powder inside gloves has been used to make putting the gloves on easier. However, most newer gloves are powder-free and are easy to put on because of the process called chlorination. Also, the FDA recently banned powdered gloves due to health hazards of powder. Therefore, powdered gloves are obsolete at this point.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates medical devices, including gloves. According to FDA guidelines, medical gloves should be watertight, have consistent sizing and fit comfortably. FDA requirements also define performance properties, such as the minimum barrier protection and strength these products must exhibit.

All medical gloves must meet certain Acceptable Quality Level (AQL) standards related to the product’s freedom from pinholes and the barrier protection confidence level. A lower AQL number represents a higher quality product. AQL 1.5 is the standard today.


Gloves should fit snugly but not be too tight. Loose-fitting gloves make it difficult to hold items and make it easier for germs to get inside the gloves. Overly tight gloves are more likely to rip.