The History Behind Exam Gloves

In the medical world, there are things that should never miss from any hospital or medical institution. These things are nowadays considered to be the “basics” and you may not even imagine how the world looked before they were invented. Exam gloves are definitely among these items, but what you may not know is that they have not been around for a lot of time (especially if you take into consideration the fact that there were medical professionals much long before exam gloves appeared).

As a matter of fact, exam gloves started to be used around 125 years ago, when William Stewart Halsted started to use sterilized gloves. The story behind how they were invented is related to the fact that before that, medical professionals and their nurses used carbolic acid to sterilize their hands before doing a medical procedure. However, certain people were sensitive to this solution and William Stewart Halsted’s nurse was among them. Apparently, when the skin on her hands started to get damaged because of the carbolic acid, Halsted asked the rubber company if they could manufacture gloves that can be dipped in the carbolic acid (thus creating a filter between the nurse’s hands and the solution).

Several decades passed until the disposable latex gloves were invented and, surprisingly enough, condoms had been around before that. As a matter of fact, disposable latex gloves were created based on the condom manufacturing process and this was happening no earlier than 1964. Soon enough, these gloves became popular in a wide range of medical procedures, starting with dental procedures and going to the dealing with human remains.

The fact that latex gloves were easy to handle and they offered freedom of movement was attractive not just for the medical professionals, but for criminals as well and they believed these gloves would hide their fingerprints. Until it was discovered that the latex could actually allow the fingerprints “pass” through due to the fact that it is a thin material, several criminals tried this solution and most of them were “unsuccessful” in their attempt.

Nowadays, there are multiple alternatives to latex gloves and they have started to become quite popular out there. These alternatives are better because they are more resistant, but they are not commonly used in cost-sensitive environments because they can cost twice the price of the normal latex gloves and many hospitals and medical institutions’ budget does not allow such high costs.