An Overview of Latex Allergy
Nov. 04, 2021

What is Latex Allergy?

Latex allergy is a reaction to certain proteins found in natural rubber latex, a product made from the rubber tree. If you have a latex allergy, your body mistakes latex for a harmful substance.

Latex allergy may cause itchy skin and hives or even anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition that can cause throat swelling and severe difficulty breathing. Your doctor can determine if you have a latex allergy or if you're at risk of developing a latex allergy.

Growing incidences of latex allergy

According to the Department of Health, New York, Unites States, latex allergy reactions occur more frequently in high-risk professions due to increased exposure to latex products. In the health care profession, up to 12% of staff may be affected. Also, the increase in latex allergies is believed to be linked to the dramatic increase in latex glove use since the introduction of universal precautions in health care settings to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B. In addition, the use of latex gloves in other settings (e.g., foodservice and restaurants, daycare) has proliferated. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) stated in 2015 that latex allergy has become an important health concern for workers, especially in healthcare environments. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, such as swelling, irritation, congestion, shortness of breath, or even anaphylaxis, where fatalities have been reported. In the US, as many as 17% of healthcare workers are reportedly sensitized to latex.

According to an article by the Journal of Occupational Health published in the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health in 2016, 13.3% of the healthcare workers and 18% of nurses in Thailand have a latex allergy. Also, 22.4% of healthcare workers in Brazil and 14.1% of healthcare workers in the Netherlands reported having latex sensitization. Moreover, 16.3% and 17.9% of healthcare workers from Sri Lanka and Iran respectively reported being allergic to latex. Hence, the growing use of nitrile as a replacement for nitrile gloves is anticipated to propel the growth of the nitrile gloves market during the forecast period.

Latex Allergy Symptoms

For a person with a latex allergy, exposure to latex could result in a number of symptoms, some of them even life-threatening. The signs may include:

• Nasal congestion

• Runny nose

• Shortness of breath

• Difficulty breathing

• Wheezing

• Skin Rashes

• Itchy skin

How can I protect myself from latex allergy?

Take the following steps to protect yourself from latex exposure and allergy in the workplace:

1. Use non latex gloves for activities that are not likely to involve contact with infectious materials (food preparation, routine housekeeping, general maintenance, etc.).

2. Appropriate barrier protection is necessary when handling infectious materials. If you choose latex gloves, use powder-free gloves with reduced protein content.

-Such gloves reduce exposures to latex protein and thus reduce the risk of latex allergy.

-So-called hypoallergenic latex gloves do not reduce the risk of latex allergy. However, they may reduce reactions to chemical additives in the latex (allergic contact dermatitis).

3. Use appropriate work practices to reduce the chance of reactions to latex.

-When wearing latex gloves, do not use oil-based hand creams or lotions (which can cause glove deterioration).

-After removing latex gloves, wash hands with a mild soap and dry thoroughly.

-Practice good housekeeping: frequently clean areas and equipment contaminated with latex-containing dust.

4. Take advantage of all latex allergy education and training provided by your employer and become familiar with procedures for preventing latex allergy.

5. Learn to recognize the symptoms of latex allergy: skin rash; hives; flushing; itching; nasal, eye, or sinus symptoms; asthma; and (rarely) shock.

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