The silent struggle of our service heroes

We talked to many businesses and all of them could confirm us: With the rise of single-use gloves, skin diseases among service and kitchen staff have also appeared more often due to prolonged use of protective equipment and excessive use of personal hygiene products.

Skin irritation as an ongoing distress

Occupational hand dermatitis in catering and kitchen staff is one of the main causes of ill health in the food industry. While 40% of the cases arise by contact with food, 55% of all skin irritation cases are caused by soaps, detergents, exposure to allergens (as latex and rubber accelerators) and prolonged wearing of plastic gloves.

A lot of businesses try providing hygiene to their customers, while their workers suffer from irritant hand dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, contact urticaria, protein contact dermatitis and hand infections. The more the staff comes in contact with detergents, soaps or allergens to latex and rubber accelerators, the more of the natural acidity of the skin gets destroyed and the surface of the skin starts cracking. Broken skin leads to skin infections which can result in red, painful, swollen skin with ulceration, oozing and pustules.

The current single-use plastic glove market

Over the last decades a lot of options for plastic gloves have arrived on the market. The most common ones are latex gloves, which are made of the juice of rubber trees. Because of their “second skin feeling” they were especially popular with medical personnel and tattoo artists, but over the years latex gloves have become more problematic as people started developing allergies to the material. Either they noticed skin irritation due to direct contact or through inhaling the particles which latex products release. The most common reaction to latex is an instant contact dermatitis, where typical symptoms are skin hives, redness, itching, sneezing, coughing and difficulty breathing.

 As an answer to the latex allergies vinyl and nitrile gloves were introduced to the gloves market as the more “unproblematic” solution. Both options are used to replace latex gloves, but in reality, allergic reactions to vinyl and nitrile are also possible: An allergic reaction to vinyl results in contact urticaria, which feels like your skin is burning. Mostly it is caused by hands sweating and a lack of breathability inside the gloves. Common symptoms are itchy red rashes, small blisters, swelling, cracked skin and skin dryness. Nitrile gloves can cause atopic dermatitis and dry skin occlusion as wearers can have an allergic reaction to the rubber accelerators used to manufacture the gloves.

 What can we do differently?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends renouncing single-use gloves and implementing a hand washing routine. It is very important that employees change their gloves every time they touch a new food or perform a new task and wash their hands before and after using a pair of single-use plastic gloves - which is a major problem especially among multitasking cooks and waiters.

To avoid contact with latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves another advice is to wear white cotton gloves underneath single-use gloves. The problem with double gloving: it increases the incidence of skin irritation due to no breathability and leading to sweating and/or overhydration.

Are your employees already asking for ElephantSkin gloves?

ElephantSkin gloves are made of sustainable, recycled materials making them a comfortable and elegant solution for the hands of your staff. The materials are soft to the skin and allow your hands to breathe underneath the gloves. Treated with an antiviral and antibacterial technology, their surface is 99,9% effective against germs.

As an employer it is a big opportunity to provide comfort to your employees – making work also fun for their hands. Furthermore, it is also a sustainable option, which is always a benefit for workers, who are climate-conscious. 

Interested in creating an enjoyable workspace experience for your employees? Try ElephantSkin for your business today!

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For the avoidance of doubt: 

ElephantSkin gloves do not replace single-use gloves in medical (sterile) use cases.
ElephantSkin gloves are not intended to replace washing hands. 
ElephantSkin gloves are an option for people not able to wash their hands regularly. 

 

Sources:

Skin irritation as an ongoing distress
https://dermnetnz.org/topics/skin-problems-in-food-handlers-and-the-catering-industry (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
https://cleanersolutions.net/handwashing-vs-gloves-in-commercial-restaurants/ (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)

The current single-use plastic glove market
https://dermnetnz.org/topics/contact-dermatitis-to-nitrile  (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
https://www.medifind.com/conditions/atopic-dermatitis/435 (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7231665/  (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
https://info.unigloves.co.uk/blog/allergic-reaction-to-vinyl-gloves (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/preventing-glove-allergies-2 (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
https://www.clhgroup.co.uk/news-article/2018/01/19/preventing-allergic-reactions-skin-irritation-with-glove-use/297 (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7402195/ (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
BS Cao, Lauren Y./MD Taylor, James S./MD Sood, Apra/LPN Murray, Debora/PhD Siegel, Paul D.(2010): Allergic Contact Dermatitis To Synthetic Rubber Gloves. Changing Trends in Patch Rest Reactions to Accelerators. 

What can we do differently? 
https://www.clhgroup.co.uk/news-article/2018/01/19/preventing-allergic-reactions-skin-irritation-with-glove-use/297 (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
https://www.wasserstrom.com/blog/2020/04/23/best-practices-for-glove-use-in-restaurants/ (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)
https://cleanersolutions.net/handwashing-vs-gloves-in-commercial-restaurants/ (Last accessed on 23.11.2021)

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