Problems with Powdered Gloves

Risks Associated with Powdered Gloves

Latex Hypersensitivity

Powdered gloves pose a highly dangerous risk to both patients and healthcare workers who are sensitive to latex proteins. Cornstarch powder, present in powdered gloves, is an allergen carrier which enhances latex-induced hypersensitivity (Edlich 2009). It is therefore vital for patients to be screened before procedures to determine a possibly undiagnosed latex allergy (Palosuo, Antoniadou & Phillips 2011).

To prevent the development of allergic reactions to latex, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a medical device ban in 2016 on powdered examination and surgical gloves (Baid & Agarwal 2017).

Surgical Complications

According to the Australian Dental Association (2015), donning and doffing powdered gloves aerosolises cornstarch powder, which can lead to respiratory exposure for up to 12 hours. Other scientific studies (Edlich et al. 2009, Baid et al. 2017), highlight the dangers of cornstarch in surgical and examination gloves to patient recovery with the potential for post-operative complications including wound infections, inflammation, peritoneal adhesions and granulomas.

Why Switch to Non-Powdered Gloves?

The US FDA have set the best practice for glove use in healthcare, with the permanent removal of powder in examination and surgical gloves. Powder-free gloves, such as nitrile gloves, are proven to be a safer and more practical solution for healthcare professionals across medical settings on a global scale.

For example, studies in Germany saw occupational contact urticaria cases for healthcare workers decrease in correlation to reduced expenditure of powdered NRL hand gloves (Edlich 2009). Enforcing a complete ban on cornstarch-coated gloves and providing low-protein, powder free gloves, has been shown to reduce the development of NRL-induced allergies (Henning 2004), and protect staff and patients diagnosed with Type I Latex Allergy.

Identifying the need to switch to non-powdered gloves and implementing changes for both surgical and examination gloves is key to the wellbeing of healthcare workers and patients.


  1. Australian Dental Association 2015, Practical Guide to Infection Control, Ninth edition
  2. Baid R, Agarwal R 2017, ‘Powdered gloves: Time to bid adieu’, Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, vol. 63, no. 3, pp. 206
  3. Edlich, RF, Long, WB 3rd, Gubler, KD, Rodeheaver, GT, Thacker, JG, Borel, L, Chase, ME, Cross, CL, Fisher, AL, Lin, KY, Cox, MJ, Zura, RB 2009, ‘Citizen’s Petition to Food and Drug Administration to ban cornstarch powder on medical gloves: Maltese cross birefringence’, The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 227-235
  4. Henning A, Jörg S, and Swen Malte J 2004, ‘Decreasing incidence of occupational contact urticaria caused by natural rubber latex allergy in German health care workers’, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 114, no. 2, pp.347-351
  5. Palosuo T, Antoniadou I, Gottrup F, Phillips P 2011, ‘Latex Medical Gloves: Time for a Reappraisal’, International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, vol. 156, no. 3, pp. 234-246