SPECIAL BULLETIN: LATEX ALLERGY
Latex allergy—an immunologic reaction to natural rubber latex found in most latex gloves and many other medical products—poses a serious health risk for some patients and health care workers. In rare cases, latex allergies can be fatal. Approximately 1,000 cases of allergic or anaphylactic reactions to latex-containing medical products have been reported to the FDA since 1988.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Other risks factors are less defined but appear to include:
- Patients with a history of early and/or recurrent surgical or medical procedures, such as children with spina bifida.
- Health care personnel and others who wear latex gloves.
- Individuals with occupational exposure, such as workers involved in the manufacture of latex gloves or catheters.
- A history of hay fever or other allergic problems.
- A history of food allergies to tropical fruits, hazelnuts, chestnuts or stone fruits, particularly if progressive in scope or severity.
- Hand dermatitis that is severe or has changed in severity in an individual who wears latex gloves.
WARNING SIGNS OF LATEX ALLERGY
- Prior allergic reactions (e.g., rash, itching, hives, rhinitis, swelling, eye irritation or asthmatic symptoms) after contact with balloons or rubber gloves, or after dental or pelvic examinations.
- Prior, unexplained allergic or anaphylactic reaction during a medical procedure.
AVOIDING LATEX EXPOSURE
- All products and medical devices in contact with individuals at risk should be reviewed for possible latex content. A label of “hypoallergenic” does not mean that a product is latex-free.
- Health care workers with known latex allergy must stop using latex gloves and use synthetic latex or non-latex substitutes. Their co-workers must not use powdered latex gloves. Care should be exercised in the choice of substitutes, since all synthetic or non-latex products are not equally impermeable to blood-borne pathogens.
- In general, only low allergen, preferably non-powdered latex gloves should be used. The powders that are used in some latex gloves can absorb latex proteins and carry them into the air in measurable quantities.
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
85 West Algonquin Road, Suite 550
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
Phone: (847) 427-1200
Fax: (847) 427-1294
Reproduced here with permission.