To Wear or Not To Wear…That’s No Longer The Question.

Back during the mid-1980’s when I first started my pre-hospital career working as a medic on an ambulance service I never wore them.   At the time it just wasn’t considered all that necessary.   Indeed, during that era if you wore rubber gloves it likely had more to do with ease in cleaning up after a call rather than any disease prevention or transmission concerns.

Eventually all of that changed as our once mostly innocent world began learning of a new health threat.   A disease known as HIV (commonly called AIDS) entered our lives and changed all the rules of the game for how we needed to operate safely as emergency medical providers.   Today, a whole host of blood-borne and body fluid pathogens make it absolutely foolhardy for a medical provider not to take every precaution possible to protect themselves, their family and their patients by wearing the proper safety equipment.

Back 20 years ago I wouldn’t have even considered wearing rubber gloves at any time while hunting or fishing.   It just didn’t seem that necessary…except, of course, for when you were out trapping.   In those instances I routinely wore rubber gauntlet type gloves manufactured primarily for working with chemicals…but used by trappers to reduce scent transmission when making land sets.

Occasionally during that time trappers would also receive the warnings to use latex gloves while skinning animals.   Diseases such as tularemia, rabies, giardias, distemper and mange were all thought to be transmissible by the animals and wearing gloves while skinning was considered just a darned good idea.   In reality, I tried wearing the gloves but quickly discarded them because I didn’t like the feel.   In truth, the gloves I wore back then are nothing like the quality gloves available on the market today.Camogloves

A few decades ago I also remember an instance in deer camp where one of the hunters had purchased some shoulder-length plastic gloves for field dressing deer.   When the rest of us hunters found out about the purchase we chastised him…and found ways to ridicule him any way we could.   How could any self-respecting hunter not allow some blood from the kill to get on his hands and on his clothing, we teased.   Heck, after all, hunting is considered a blood sport so keeping things so sanitary seemed quite strange to many of us who relished the feeling of dried blood on our hands.   It was a feeling synonymous with success and to take measures to prevent this blood rite seemed totally unnecessary, if not even somewhat insulting.

But, oh…have times changed.   Long gone are the days when you were careless about getting a little blood on your hunting clothes.   Today, not only is such practice considered poor scent management…but one errant slip of the knife and your favorite pastime could potentially kill you.   If you don’t carry a pair of latex (or better yet, nitrile gloves) in your pocket and several back in your truck you are undoubtedly acting carelessly by taking unnecessary health risks.

Today’s sportsman not only needs to think about all the diseases I mentioned previously…but now we have West Nile, chronic wasting disease (CWD) and the much-anticipated avian (bird) flu which the experts tell us is only a matter of time before it arrives to North America in migrating waterfowl or birds.   Fact is, if you aren’t routinely wearing rubber gloves or at least trying to get into the habit of doing so, you’re acting as foolish as the non-glove-wearing medic playing Russian roulette with his patients.   I’m confident that eventually—certainly within most of our lifetimes—we are all going to risk exposure to a disease transmitted through our game animals.   It’s just a matter of time before it happens…so get used to it.

I mentioned earlier that there are some awesome gloves called nitrile that are popular with the medical world.   Keep in mind that some people have latex allergies…so a latex glove might not always be the best choice.   Yet, the nitrile gloves are so strong that the good medical-grade gloves actually claim they prevent accidental needle sticks.   I would suspect that when cleaning or skinning an animal they would also offer some greater protection against a slip of the knife, too.   The down-side is they are somewhat tighter fitting…but because of that they offer excellent tactile sensing when this is critical to perform hands-on activities.

I’ve noticed that one progressive manufacturer has even recognized that the day has arrived for when sportsmen will need a camo glove.   Check out Charlie’s Own, Inc. who markets a scent-free latex camo glove currently in two camo patterns.

Indeed, wearing AND USING rubber gloves has come a long way in our world over the past few decades as standard operating procedures.   No matter if you’re a nurse, a firefighter, a dentist, a chef, and now even a sportsmen…wearing the gloves makes good safety sense.   What once was the source for kidding and joking in deer camp is no longer a laughing matter for any of us.   Today, wearing the gloves is a sign you take your health seriously by not taking any chances when a 25 cent pair gloves will help keep you safe.

By the time I ended my career as a medic a few years ago I always carried several pairs of gloves in my pocket.   One for me…and sometimes one pair for my partners who might have forgotten theirs.   I used those gloves as they were meant to be used…including, among other uses, as an improvised emergency barf bag when no other options were immediately available.   I can guarantee you that if you begin carrying gloves in your hunting pants pocket you’ll find they are handy…not only for wearing…but also for uses such as emergency water carriers, trail marking, plus many, many more possibilities.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.