How to prepare for a pandemic – and can disposable gloves be of any help?

It shouldn’t be a tough question for a seasoned prepper. However, the latest coronavirus pandemic shows that humankind was utterly caught off guard. If you rely on politicians and governments for timely and appropriate reactions, well, good luck with that.

I’d rather take some precautionary measures on my own instead of suffering consequences due to wrong or late actions by authorities.

Disposable gloves are a standard piece of equipment in the healthcare industry. But we use them in almost all other industries for some tasks, as well as in our day-to-day home activities.

While there are different opinions on whether we must use them or not in disease outbreak scenarios, everyone agrees that we should stock up a pack or two if SHTF.

Can Disposable Gloves Provide Protection?

First of all, I’d like to make one thing clear – disposable gloves do protect you from contamination. That’s what they are made for.

Recently, there has been some confusion about this, because WHO (World Health Organization) doesn’t recommend the use of disposable gloves as a protection against COVID-19 unless you’re a medical professional.

How come it protects health workers but not the general population? While it sounds perplexing the answer is quite simple.

It’s all about following the rules. If used appropriately, disposable gloves provide protection. If not, they can even up your chances of contamination.

Also, improper removal can cause contamination.

So, basically, WHO believes that we are more likely to be sloppy while using rubber gloves instead of simply washing our hands. Furthermore, we might obtain a false sense of security and disregard other recommendations.

But, if we follow the rules and dispose of gloves after each use, there’s no doubt that they offer another layer of protection. And after that, we should still wash our hands

Types of Disposable Gloves

Even though they all look alike more or less, there are many different types of disposable gloves.

Most commonly, we divide them according to the material they are made of.

Another way is to classify them by the industry they were made for. There are medical gloves and industrial gloves.

Industrial gloves usually have a visible tag that indicates a specific industry.

But for our cause, medical gloves are more important. There are two types of medical gloves: surgical and examination gloves.

Surgical Gloves

nitrile gloves

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Surgical gloves, as the name suggests, most commonly find their use during surgical procedures. They are always sterile with very high quality.

Surgical gloves can be made of latex and nitrile. I’ll explain the differences in the materials a little bit later.

What separates surgical gloves from other disposable gloves is that they have to comply with very high standards. Furthermore, they need to be thin and should come in several different sizes for a perfect fit. It’s only natural as these gloves must provide protection and comfort while maintaining dexterity.

Examination Disposable Gloves

Examination disposable gloves

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Various healthcare and caregiver professionals use examination gloves regularly.

They provide protection from contamination or cross-contamination between patients and medical staff. Examination gloves can be sterile or non-sterile.

They also don’t have very precise sizes as they are not intended for pinpoint accuracy. While surgical gloves nearly always come in an individual package (one pair), examination gloves usually come in boxes of 50 or 100 gloves.

How to Choose Medical Gloves?

With several different types and different materials, it might be difficult to decide which ones to buy. However, once you break it down, it’s not rocket science.

Each type has some unique benefits. So, you should consider these benefits to make the right choice.

Commonly, disposable gloves are made of latex, nitrile, or vinyl.

Latex Gloves

latex gloves

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Latex dominated the industry for decades. It used to be the best material for surgical gloves by far.

And for a good reason. Latex gloves offer the best protection from viruses and bacteria. They are very stretchable, yet strong and durable. Of course, we are talking about single-use.

Moreover, they fit nicely and provide precision and tactile sensitivity.

Latex is a natural material coming from a rubber tree. So, they seem perfect in every way.

However, repetitive and frequent contact with latex can cause an allergic reaction. Latex allergy rates are increasing so some people choose non-latex disposable gloves to avoid potential allergies.

Nitrile Gloves

nitrile gloves

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Nitrile is a sort of synthetic rubber. It has been in use for a long time but it used to be quite expensive.

Recently, it became affordable and it is very often the first choice for medical workers. Modern nitrile disposable gloves are pretty much similar to latex gloves when it comes to quality. They offer almost identical levels of fit and sensitivity and they are even stronger and more tear and puncture-resistant than their latex counterparts.

Also, nitrile gloves provide better protection against chemicals. Having said that, they offer slightly lower levels of protection against viruses and bacteria.

With no allergy concerns and affordable prices, it’s easy to see why these disposable gloves are becoming the best substitution for latex gloves.

Vinyl Disposable Gloves

vinyl disposable gloves

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Vinyl gloves are the most affordable type of disposable gloves.

They can’t match the high quality of either latex or nitrile gloves, but the low price makes them a good choice for many short-term low-risk activities.

For example, they are widely used in the food industry.

Things to Consider When Choosing Disposable Gloves 

  • What do you need them for? If you’re making your IFAK or first aid kit, you should choose nitrile or latex gloves. It’s a matter of preference, although I would recommend nitrile gloves. Latex gloves may offer some advantages for brain surgery, but for an average Joe, nitrile gloves are probably better. In the case of a pandemic, you don’t want to worry about possible allergic reactions to latex on top of everything else. For everyday home use, vinyl gloves are cheap and good enough, unless you’re handling some hazardous materials.
  • Service Grade. Looks can be deceptive and the same materials may be used to produce disposable gloves for different purposes. So, make sure to check out the package before you buy it! 
  • Size. This is obvious, but it’s easy to forget. Buy a proper size to avoid awkward and uncomfortable fit.
  • Powdered, chlorinated or powder and chlorine-free gloves? Medical gloves used to be powdered for easy donning. However, powdered medical gloves have been forbidden for medical uses since 2016. Chlorine is a good alternative to provide easy donning. Polymer-coating is the newest and most effective method allowing the user to don the gloves even with damp or wet hands.

How Long Can You Keep Disposable Gloves?

Shelf life is important whenever you need to make a long-term stash. After all, what’s the point of stocking up if your supplies expire?

As for disposable gloves, manufacturers don’t need to indicate the expiration date. However, if you store them properly, latex gloves should last at least 3 years, while nitrile gloves can last 5 years or more. 

Even though these numbers are provisional if you store them properly, medical gloves can last for much longer, even up to 10 years.

It’s pretty easy to determine if the gloves are safe to use. The slightest deterioration will show immediately. They will crack or tear as soon as you stretch them. Also, they will develop a harder surface.

But how to make sure that you can use them when needed? There are three simple rules you need to remember:

  1. Keep them away from the sunlight or other UV-light sources.
  2. The room temperature shouldn’t exceed 90 degrees.
  3. And don’t open them until you need them.

So, you need a cool and dark storage to keep your gloves safe.

Conclusion About Disposable Gloves

When you imagine a disaster event of any kind, disposable gloves probably won’t be the first thing that crosses your mind. However, whatever the scenario, there will be some contamination hazards for sure. And you don’t want to find yourself in such a situation without protective gloves. So, think ahead and prepare yourself for the next pandemic.

In the meantime, you can watch survival movies – or read survival books – for inspiration and fun.