Nitrile Glove Allergy: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention
How much do you know about glove allergies?
Gloves are the number one protection gear for your hands. But what if this protective measure is the cause of your troubles?
Nitrile glove allergy is a cause of stress among glove users.
Nitrile gloves are one of the most popular glove choices there is. Their features make them suitable for the medical field, food industry, manufacturing, and several other fields. Their safety mainly caused their popularity.
Before the invention of nitrile, latex gloves were the only available choice.
However, latex is known to cause latex allergy in 9.7% of the healthcare workers who use them. Additionally, they are responsible for 4.3% of latex allergies in the general population. This made the transition from latex to nitrile an easy one.
However, they are recent studies that reveal nitrile gloves can be the cause of an allergic reaction in some people.
Therefore, throughout this article, we will explain to you:
- What is nitrile, and what is a nitrile allergy?
- How does this allergic reaction happen?
- What are the allergens found in nitrile gloves?
- What are the symptoms of nitrile glove allergy, and how to treat it?
- How to prevent nitrile allergies?
Additionally, we will examine the following:
- Some home remedies to treat nitrile allergy
- Hypoallergenic vs. accelerator-free gloves
- Appealing properties of nitrile gloves
What is nitrile?
Nitrile is a rubber derivative.
Its scientific name is nitrile butadiene rubber, which can lead to its classification as a type of latex. However, nitrile is free from latex and latex proteins.
Therefore, nitrile is an entirely synthetic rubber. It is produced through the copolymerization of acrylonitrile and butadiene. Respectively, these two materials provide nitrile with its chemical and puncture resistance.
What does nitrile allergy mean?
An allergy results from the body fighting off a foreign substance (allergen), in this case, nitrile.
When the body feels like a substance is attacking it, it produces an allergic reaction. Which is considered our body’s way of protecting itself.
But what is an allergic reaction?
The body’s immune system is in charge of fending for the body against outside threats. The immune system creates antibodies to foreign substances that can harm the body.
Still, sometimes the immune system produces antibodies against harmless substances. In this case, the immune system produces IgE antibodies (allergy-causing antibodies).
These antibodies locate the allergen and get rid of it (1).
However, this process causes the release of histamine. Histamine is the substance responsible for allergy symptoms.
Thus, a nitrile allergy results from an allergic reaction produced by the body to nitrile.
What are the different types of allergies?
Different allergens cause different reactions and allergies. Common types of allergies are:
- Hay fever
- Food allergy
- Drug allergy
- Sting allergy
The allergic reaction produced by nitrile gloves can range from dermatitis to anaphylaxis. However, it is improbable for nitrile to cause anaphylaxis.
Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at the two types.
An allergic skin reaction that presents itself as:
- Flakes or peels
Some types of allergies can progress and cause a life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis. This condition requires immediate medical help and is considered an emergency.
Anaphylaxis can cause the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Lowering the blood pressure
- Severe shortness of breath
- Either rapid or weak heartbeats
- Nausea and vomiting
An allergy is one of the body’s defense mechanisms. The immune system fights foreign materials that it perceives as dangerous. However, sometimes the body sees non-dangerous substances as a threat.
Consequently, it generates an allergic reaction ranging from dermatitis to anaphylaxis. Therefore, nitrile can cause allergies in some cases.
How do nitrile gloves cause allergies?
For decades latex was the only glove choice available. Latex gloves are manufactured using natural materials. As a result, they caused allergies in some patients.
Thus, nitrile seemed a safer alternative when it was introduced to the market. However, recently more cases of nitrile allergy have been discovered. This led the scientists to research the matter to know the reasons behind this allergy.
Their research revealed two main reasons for nitrile allergy. The first is the accelerator material used in the glove manufacturing process. And the second is the dye used to color the gloves.
You are probably wondering now what type of dyes cause allergies. Or maybe you are thinking, what is this accelerator, and is it important?
First, why don’t we tell you all about the manufacturing process of nitrile gloves?
How are nitrile gloves manufactured?
Coagulation agents are added to nitrile after the polymerization process. This step causes the nitrile to solidify. It is then sold as a dried and crumbled rubber.
However, to make nitrile gloves, the solid material is liquified again. During this step, dyes (allergens) may be added to produce colored gloves.
The process of nitrile glove manufacturing requires the use of hand-shaped molds. The molds must be dipped in chlorinated water for cleaning first.
Then, the clean molds are subjected to calcium nitrate and calcium carbonate. This step ensures the coagulation of rubber and prevents the gloves from adhering to the molds.
Next, the hand-shaped molds are dipped in liquid nitrile. Afterward, they are backed and dried.
Finally, they can be treated with chlorine or polymer to ease donning and duffing. During this last step, the process of vulcanization may take place.
In this process, the gloves are dipped in the accelerator (another allergen) and heated to increase their elasticity.
All the allergens that cause nitrile glove allergy are introduced during manufacturing. Therefore, nitrile itself is not an allergen.
This means, with some manufacturing modifications, nitrile gloves can be safe to use.
Now, how about we examine these allergens closely?
What are the allergens found in nitrile gloves?
As previously mentioned, the allergens found in nitrile gloves can be:
Several types of dyes can cause an allergic reaction. Colored nitrile gloves are a popular choice in many industrial fields. They are even used in medicine to facilitate double gloving and color coding.
A study (2) found that the following dies can cause contact dermatitis:
- Pigment Blue 15 (PB15)
- Orange F2G
- Disperse Orange 3
- Acid Red 118
- Direct Orange 34
- Disperse Red 17
- Disperse Blue 35
They transform the glove material into a thin and elastic form. However, these sulfur-based materials are the main cause of contact allergies.
Accelerators are divided into dithiocarbamates, thiurams, and mercaptobenzothiazole (MBT).
Thiurams cause more than 50% of the allergies caused by nitrile gloves. They are followed by carbamates, which are responsible for 30% of the cases. Finally, MBT only causes allergies in 1-5% of the cases.
- Tetramethylthiuram Disulphide (TMTD)
- Tetramethyl Thiuram Disulphide (TMTM)
- Tetraethyl Thiuram Disulfide (TETD)
- Zinc Dibutyldithiocarbamate (ZDBC)
- Zinc Dimethyldihiocarbamates (ZDMC)
- Zinc Diethyldithiocarbamates (ZDEC)
- Zinc pentamethylene Dithiocarbamate (ZPMC)
- Zinc Pentamethylene Dithicarbamate (ZPD)
- Zinc Mercaptobenzothiazole (ZMBT)
- Mercaptobenzothiazole (MBT)
- Benzothiazyl Disulphide (MBTS)
- Zinc Mercaptobenzimidazole (ZMBI)
Several types of dyes and accelerators can induce an allergic reaction. If you are allergic to nitrile gloves, examine the ingredients used in their manufacture.
What are the symptoms of nitrile allergy?
Nitrile glove allergy is a type 4 (IV) allergic reaction. This type of allergy occurs as a delayed response to touching an allergen. Thus, it leads to a case of contact dermatitis, which causes anaphylaxis in severe but very rare cases.
The following are the common symptoms of nitrile allergy:
This is the initial symptom of nitrile allergy. Hives present themselves as red or white bumps. These bumps can be localized, or they can spread to the arm. They might disappear and reappear, so you should keep an eye on them.
Hives are itchy and can cause immense pain. Therefore, ensure you wash your hands with soap after taking off nitrile gloves.
Irritated skin can crack easily. These cracks can cause burns, stings, or even bleeding. Additionally, they can lead to infections. Primarily if you work in the medical field. This symptom requires medical advice.
If you continue to use nitrile gloves after suffering from hives, this can lead to swelling. The continued use of nitrile gloves will lead to an increase in hives.
Thus, the skin will feel stretched and inflamed. At this point, you should seek medical advice immediately.
Other life-threatening symptoms include:
- Face or tongue swelling
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
Symptoms of nitrile glove allergies can range from hives, cracks, or blisters to face swelling and difficulty breathing. Mild symptoms like hives and damage can be easily treated. While other severe symptoms require immediate medical attention.
How can you treat nitrile glove allergy?
Treatment of nitrile allergies can be divided into pharmaceutical options and home remedies.
However, before considering treatments, make sure you remove the irritant. This means you cannot continue using nitrile gloves if you are allergic.
Pharmaceutical treatments used to treat this type of allergy can be applied topically. However, if you are hoping for a more substantial effect, you can also take an oral medication to help ease your pain.
Here are some over-the-counter drug recommendations that can fight the itch for you.
Using ointments and creams can help reduce the itchiness and the hives. We recommend the use of 1% hydrocortisone cream or ointment. You can also apply calamine lotion to the hives.
Whichever you prefer, apply it 1 to 2 times daily for a couple of days. A helpful tip would be to place your ointment, lotion, or cream in the refrigerator before use. This will provide a calm and soothing effect.
If the hydrocortisone is not enough, we recommend using an oral antihistaminic. You can take diphenhydramine if the itchiness disturbs your sleep, as it can cause you to feel drowsy.
However, if you want a non-drowsy antihistaminic, consider purchasing loratadine tablets. Take 1 tablet daily.
There is a variety of pharmaceutical products that can be used to treat nitrile glove allergies. These products include hydrocortisone ointments and calamine lotion. Additionally, oral medications include diphenhydramine tablets and loratadine tablets.
On the other hand, if you are not a fan of modern medicine, there are alternatives you can try.
Cold compressions are the go-to choice if you are suffering from inflammation. Apply a wet, cold cloth over the inflamed area. Leave the compressions for 15 to 30 mins.
You can repeat this process several times in the day.
Soak your hands
You can also soak the affected area in cool water for 15 minutes. Also, avoid using irritating bath material as it can cause more inflammation.
It is always tempting to scratch that itch. However, scratching your blisters or hives can cause more trouble. The blisters can open, causing more pain and bleeding. Additionally, if you scratch them, they will probably leave a mark on your skin.
Applying an oatmeal-based or aloe-based moisturizer to the affected area can help regenerate the skin cells. You can also use honey to reduce inflammation and fight off infections.
Home remedies to soothe nitrile glove allergies include:
- Using excellent cloth compressions or soaking your hands in cold water
- Applying honey, oatmeal, or aloe vera
- Avoiding the urge to scratch your skin
How can you prevent nitrile glove allergies?
Some tips can help you avoid nitrile glove allergy altogether.
- If you can’t determine the cause of your allergy, consider switching to vinyl or neoprene.
- If you are allergic to one of the accelerator materials, look for accelerator-free nitrile gloves.
- You may also consider using hypoallergenic gloves.
- Those suffering from allergic reactions to the glove’s dye should try white nitrile gloves.
- Regularly wash your hands before donning and after duffing the gloves.
- Use gloves with cotton liners if you wear them for a long time.
- Powder-free gloves are also recommended to avoid allergies.
- If you have hand eczema, make sure you treat it and moisturize your hand regularly.
Hypoallergenic gloves vs. accelerator-free gloves
You might be wondering at this point what the difference is between these two types of gloves.
Hypoallergenic gloves are an umbrella term that encompasses many other types. This means that accelerator-free gloves are considered hypoallergenic.
Accelerator-free nitrile gloves
Accelerators only cause contact dermatitis. However, this can cause severe irritation and, consequently, work delays.
Therefore, newer technologies aim at manufacturing accelerator-free nitrile gloves. These gloves are more flexible than regular nitrile. They provide a snug and comfortable fit.
However, the strength of the gloves is a bit lowered.
Hypoallergenic nitrile gloves
These allergy-friendly gloves are manufactured in an allergen-free or low-allergen concentration manner. Thus, these gloves can be latex-free, accelerator-free, and powder-free.
Thus, hypoallergenic nitrile gloves can safely be used in the industrial and medical fields.
Both glove types are practical and appealing alternatives to regular nitrile gloves. Thus, if you’re allergic to nitrile gloves, you can safely consider accelerator-free nitrile gloves or hypoallergenic gloves.
What are the most appealing properties of nitrile gloves?
Some properties make nitrile gloves one of the preferred choices in many fields. Here are some of these properties that will make you think twice before disregarding nitrile gloves
- Nitrile gloves are highly puncture-resistant.
- Nitrile’s high tensile strength allows the gloves to stretch more than latex and vinyl.
- The comfort provided by nitrile gloves makes them a great choice for several industries.
- Nitrile gloves are chemically resistant.
- The gloves’ tactile sensitivity allows the user to move freely and perform delicate tasks.
- They are manufactured in several colors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is nitrile a natural product?
No, nitrile is a synthetic product. It is the product of the polymerization of acrylonitrile and butadiene.
Can nitrile gloves cause allergy?
Yes, nitrile gloves can lead to an allergic reaction in rare cases.
What’s the difference between a skin rash and an allergy?
A skin rash can be due to a mild reaction to the powder in the gloves. You can also be having a response to your sweat. On the other hand, an allergy is more severe and can lead to hives and blisters.
What causes nitrile glove allergy?
The dyes and the accelerator used in manufacturing nitrile gloves cause this allergy. Therefore, nitrile is a non-allergic material.
Is nitrile allergy treatable?
Yes, nitrile glove allergy can be treated by taking some medication. You can also apply cold compressions to the affected area if your allergy is mild.
Can I use lotions to treat my nitrile glove allergy?
Yes, you can use honey-based, oatmeal-based, or aloe-based lotions.
What do you recommend if I am allergic to nitrile gloves?
You might consider trying accelerator-free gloves or hypoallergenic gloves.
What use nitrile gloves?
Nitrile gloves have high puncture resistance, chemical resistance, and tear resistance. They are also sold in different colors, allowing for double gloving and color coding.