Gloves protect the skin from the numerous hazards lurking in research labs. There are many varieties and types of gloves available depending upon your need, whether you want protection from chemical hazards, biological hazards or simply preventing surface contamination. However, a very noticeable side effect of using gloves is ‘sweaty glove hands’.
Perhaps many of you might have faced the embarrassing situation of sweaty handshakes where it sabotages your first impression! Or soaking of keyboard, paper and equipment upon touching them. Even trying to get on another pair of gloves with sweaty hands becomes almost impossible. These sweaty hands become strenuous to work with and uncomfortable causing allergic skin/rashes in many individuals.
These gloves cannot be avoided during laboratory/research work, however, there are some tips and tricks to reduce or circumvent this problem that comes in handy in such situations and have been discussed below.
- Choose your glove material wisely: The choice of material for your gloves is important, not only to help with sweat but also to avoid more serious issues including allergic reactions and dermatitis. It has been observed that the prevalence of latex allergies in healthcare workers is more than double that compared to the general population. Therefore, you should use non-latex gloves and powder-free (reduced latex protein) gloves if possible. For more information about the different types of gloves available, see our guide to gloves.
- Topical medications to counter sweaty glove hands: There are lot of topical medications: creams/gels available in the market to counter perspiration and irritation of the skin caused by frequent usage of lab gloves. Formaldehyde lotions/aluminium chlorohydrate is known to denature keratin and thus occluding the sweat pores on the hands leading to reduced sweat release. One such multiuse topical gel is the Stokoderm® Triple Active Gel.
- Fabric glove liners can combat sweaty glove hands: One of the strategies to avoid the sweaty hand problem is to wear fabric gloves underneath. There are a variety of glove liners available such as these and these, but speak to your lab manager to see if they have any they recommend or even if they have any available for you to use.
- Change gloves regularly: The most convenient method to avoid sweaty hands is to change your gloves regularly. It is helpful to wash your hands after removing gloves and keeping surplus small sized towels to thoroughly dry your hands may turn out handy in such situations.
- Use of 70% ethanol/hand coolers: Most biology laboratories have a healthy stock of 70% ethanol since it is a disinfectant, denatures protein and dissolve lipids. You can use 70% ethanol on gloved hands to help cool them down and prevent sweat occurring. You are good to go after few seconds of application of ethanol on the gloves and should notice a cooling sensation. Be cautious of using 70% ethanol on ungloved hands since it might lead to dry skin issues.
Hand coolers are devices to be worn on hands to ward off the sweat from the hands, and while can’t be used while wearing gloves, they can be used during glove-free periods to help cool the hands.
- Free time from gloves: It is also critical to give glove-free time to hands to avoid sweaty hands. You can plan your experiments to ensure you get a break where you can remove gloves and keep your hands bare and free to recover.
- Choice of size: I personally use a slightly larger size of gloves than the actual size of my hand. This gives ample space to sweat pores and they do not perspire as much. Additionally, it becomes easier for me to change the gloves regularly when the size is little larger than required.
- Baby powder: Many people use baby powder on their hands since it has the unique property of absorbing sweat. An effective alternative to this is the use of baking soda/ corn-starch on the hands to remove sweat.
- Drinking water: This is a general advice to sweat less and is little counter-intuitive. Drinking water keeps our body cool and reduces the core body temperature. More moisture means less moisture released, implying fewer sweaty palms.
- Iontophoresis: Some people have a condition called hyperhidrosis, where they sweat more than the average person. Interestingly, hands are known to be the most common hotspot for this condition, and this may be exacerbated by usage of hand gloves. The long-term and the most effective solution to sweaty hands is iontophoresis (mostly done once per week). Moreover, it circumvents the usage of harmful chemicals and has no reported long-term side effects.
I hope these useful tips for dealing with sweaty hands will be convenient to glove wearers. If you have any other tips related to dealing with sweaty gloves hands, please feel free to comment below.
- Wu M, McIntosh J and Liu J. (2016) Current prevalence rate of latex allergy: Why it remains a problem? J Occup Health. 58(2):138-44. doi: 10.1539/joh.15-0275-RA.
- Pariser , D.M and Ballard A. (2014) Iontophoresis for Palmar and Plantar Hyperhidrosis. Dermatologic Clinics. 32(4):491-4. doi: 10.1016/j.det.2014.06.009