Marianne McAndrew, RN, BSN, CDE
Journal of Nursing Administration

The Vow of Silence

Latex allergy, your test positive—words I did not want to hear. I really didn’t know what this meant, or the impact it would have on my life. Like many other health care workers, the cause of this allergy was the powdered latex gloves I wore at work. I choose to tell my employer about my allergy to latex (natural rubber latex), but many other nurses have taken the “vow of silence.”

Many nurses have been hesitant to admit they have a problem with the gloves they wear at work for fear of losing their jobs, or being the first to be let go when the facility downsizes. These are your peers who bring their own non-latex gloves to work, who cough, sneeze and have red eyes while doing patient care. These nurses frequently are taking anti-histamines and using inhalers to work, to reduce symptoms from powdered latex exposure. The vow of silence compromises one’s health, and perhaps ultimately, a life or career.

I choose to speak out about my allergy. I was concerned about the health and safety of co-workers, patients and myself. It has not been easy for me. Several of my co-workers have admitted having a documented latex allergy, but took the vow of silence to keep their jobs. The key is prevention of latex allergy by reducing the risks for health care workers and patients. The first step is to remove the powdered latex gloves from the work environment. This will greatly reduce the incidence of most glove-related problems. But, it also removes the aerosolized exposure of airborne powder carrying the latex allergen that will cause reactions to those with a latex allergy. This simple step may allow many health care workers to continue to work. Employers need to provide a safe environment. Health care workers and employers need to educate themselves about latex allergy.

Employees not wishing to admit or address latex allergy have done a wonderful job of promoting ignorance and placing other employees and patients at an unnecessary health risk. Employers who restrict latex allergic employees to reduce latex exposure, yet who do not address it within the institution, are putting a small Band-Aid on a huge wound. Nationally many health care systems are establishing policies for latex safe environments, but many have not accepted this problem. When a pregnant patient presents at the emergency room ready to deliver, and states I have a latex allergy, then it is too late to set up a latex allergy protocol. There are many resources available for health care facilities, health care workers and patients, use them.

If you or someone you know is a health care worker or is a person who is with risk factors for the development of latex allergy, get informed. Pay attention to the signs and symptoms of latex allergy. Be your own advocate. Stop the sensitization of latex allergy, ban powdered latex gloves and demand a safer environment. Do not take the vow of silence, for with many voices the call for a latex safe environment will be heard.

Reproduced here with permission from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Table of Contents

Latex Allergy Links — Main Menu

Latex Allergy Links Message Board

Toys & Baby Products — Manufacturers’ Phone Numbers

Latex Gloves in Food Operations PDF
Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services Sep 07 2001

Ever more complex;
Lawsuits and increasing regulation mount as argument over NR latex policies rages

Miles Moore Rubber & Plastics News Jul 30 2001

Living With Latex: Where to be alert for latex
Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital

Handle with care
Ben Van Houten Restaurant Business Aug 01 2000

Allergenic Cross-Reactivity of Latex and Foods
Greer Labs Technical Bulletin #10 Jan 05 2000

Latex Allergy: Another Real Y2K Issue
Lisa M. Jennings, RN CRRN Rehabilitation Nursing Jul/Aug 1999

Potential for Allergy to Natural Rubber Latex Gloves and other Natural Rubber Products
OSHA Technical Information Bulletin Apr 12 1999

Looking Out for Latex
Sandra A. Holmes Science and Children Feb 1999

The Vow of Silence
Marianne McAndrew Journal of Nursing Administration Feb 1999

The legal implications of latex allergy
Peter Kohn RN Jan 1999

Latex Allergy: Everyone’s Concern
Lawrence D. Duffield, DDS Journal of the Michigan Dental Association Jun 1998

Allergen Content of Latex Gloves.
A Market Surveillance Study of Medical Gloves Used in Finland in 1997

Palosuo, Turjanmaa, & Reinikka-Railo

User Facility Reporting Bulletin
selected articles FDA Fall 1997

Latex Allergy Alert
Christine Ozment Exceptional Parent Oct 1997

Latex gloves hand health workers a growing worry
Margaret Veach American Medical News Oct 13 1997

Living with Latex
Lisa Legge Nursing Minnesota Aug 1997

Research Review:
Association between latex sensitization and repeated latex exposure in children

Victoria M. Steelman RN, PhD(c), CNOR AORN Journal Jul 1997

Latex allergy: How safe are your gloves?
Kenneth K. Meyer, MD, FACS and Donald H. Beezhold, PhD
American College of Surgeons Bulletin Jul 1997

User Facility Reporting Bulletin
FDA Spring 1997

Latex allergy among staff poses major headache for hospitals
Meredith Goad Press Herald Portland, ME May 06 1997

Oregon picks up latex glove controversy
Patrick O’Neill The Oregonian Portland, OR Apr 21 1997

Facilities react to growing number of allergies to latex
Linda L. Mullen South Bend Tribune South Bend, IN Apr 13 1997

Growing number of HCW’s developing dangerous reactions to latex
Liz Kowalczyk The Patriot Ledger Quincy, MA Apr 01 1997

Shriners Hospital Stops Using Latex
Pat Cahill Springfield Union Springfield, MA Mar 07 1997

Latex Allergy and Contraception
The Contraception Report Patient Update Mar 1997

Is Latex Paint Hazardous To Latex Allergy Sufferers?
Don Groce Latex Allergy News Oct 1996

Cotton, Nylon, Lycra Spandex and Allergies
Don Groce Latex Allergy News Sep 1996

Paving, Asphalt, Tires & Latex Allergies
Don Groce Latex Allergy News Aug 1996

Special Bulletin: Latex Allergy
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Q & A: Latex Allergies
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Preguntas y Respuestas: Alergias al Látex
Asociación Americana de Alergia, Asma e Inmunología

Latex Allergy Survival Kit
Nancy Mitchell 1996

Downloadable/Printable Latex Allergy Signs
For personal, non-commercial use only

Pre-1996 FDA documents
Miscellaneous legislative and other documents
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