Chemo gloves are recommended for people in the medical field who administer chemotherapy. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, it’s equally important to use these gloves to protect yourself and your family members at home.

Chemotherapy refers to a class of drugs used to treat a number of cancers and other conditions.

Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill cancer cells. However, their strength also makes them potentially harmful to people who are delivering chemotherapy treatment.

Clinicians in the medical field who administer chemotherapy medications or caregivers at home who handle bodily fluids that may contain chemotherapy agents need to take special precautions to protect themselves from the effects of these medications.

This article reviews the types of gloves that can protect your skin from exposure to chemotherapy, as well as when and how this personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used.

Gloves that can protect you from chemotherapy undergo specific testing to make sure that they are made out of a material that can provide a barrier between chemotherapy agents and your skin. Gloves that fall into this category are sometimes referred to as chemo gloves.

Chemotherapy gloves can be made out of several types of materials that can also be used to make other medical-grade gloves or PPE, including:

  • nitrile
  • neoprene
  • latex

Vinyl gloves are considered to be inappropriate for handling chemotherapy medications. This is because the material is generally more permeable (liquids are more likely to pass through vinyl) compared to nitrile or latex.

In some cases of emergency, two pairs of standard medical powder-free or nitrile gloves may be used, but it’s recommended to use gloves that have been rated as impermeable to chemotherapy agents — meaning they do not allow fluid to pass through.

Chemotherapy gloves should always be worn layered in two pairs.

If you are handling chemotherapy medications for long periods of time, you will need to change your gloves every 30 minutes. It’s also recommended that you replace your gloves whenever they appear soiled or damaged.

Most of the emphasis on the use of chemo gloves is for those in the medical field who administer chemotherapy. However, it’s equally important to protect yourself and your loved ones at home if someone in the household is undergoing chemotherapy.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) advises that chemotherapy medications are excreted through bodily fluids like:

  • sweat
  • urine
  • saliva
  • stool
  • tears

People and pets who are exposed to these fluids in the first few days after chemotherapy administration are at risk of exposure.

Per 2019 research, chemotherapy exposure can lead to concerns like:

When to wear chemo gloves at home

Medical professionals are taught to wear chemotherapy gloves and other PPE when preparing, mixing, and administering chemotherapy agents in a healthcare setting. You may also need to take precautions at home.

There are some chemotherapy pills you may be taking at home that you or your family members should wear gloves when handling. Outside of direct contact with medications, you should also wear two pairs of gloves when handling bodily fluids.

Other tips from the ACS for keeping safe from chemotherapy exposure at home include:

  • flushing the toilet twice
  • double bagging incontinence briefs or sanitary pads
  • machine-washing any soiled clothes or linens
  • washing any exposed areas of skin right away with soap and water
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While any double pair of gloves can be used in a pinch, chemotherapy gloves usually earn that title only after they’ve passed rigorous testing methods.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) tests gloves for chemotherapy against nine different chemotherapy medications.

Gloves that receive the ASTM D6978 rating as a “chemotherapy glove” can offer protection against penetration and permeation with the chemo drugs that fall into the testing categories.

Any gloves that earn the ASTM D6978 certification standard should be safe to use when handling chemotherapy agents, but two sets of gloves are still recommended.

When purchasing gloves for chemotherapy, look for a label on the box or container the gloves come in that lists the ASTM certification level.

Many brands of gloves have been certified for use with chemotherapy agents. Below are some examples of brands that meet the ASTM D6978:

The list is not all-inclusive, so you may find other certified chemo gloves not listed here.

Should a person receiving chemo also wear protective gloves?

It never hurts to be too careful. Although you are already exposed to chemotherapy agents if you have been prescribed chemotherapy, you or your at-home caregivers may still be advised to wear gloves when handling your medications to avoid side effects such as skin irritation and to prevent contamination.

What other protective wear should be worn when handling chemo drugs?

For home use, chemotherapy gloves should be sufficient. However, in the medical setting where intravenous chemotherapies are prepared or administered, additional PPE — including gowns, head coverings, eye and face shields, and even special ventilation equipment — may be required.

How often should gloves be changed?

Chemotherapy gloves should be changed every 30 minutes, or any time they appear soiled or damaged.

Is it safe to administer chemotherapy medications if you’re pregnant or nursing?

People who are pregnant or nursing — or people who are immunocompromised — should not handle chemotherapy agents, according to the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS).

Chemotherapy gloves are protective gloves that have been tested and certified to withstand the penetration of nine different chemotherapy agents.

Although these gloves are usually thicker than standard gloves, it’s still recommended that you wear two pairs at a time if you are handling chemotherapy medications.

Chemotherapy gloves are usually labeled as such, and you can look for the ASTM D6978 label on the glove packaging to confirm they meet federal standards.