Health Care: How to prevent latex allergy?
Frequently asked questions
What is latex?
Latex is a sap (juice) from the rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis). Natural rubber is made from this solution of hydrocarbons, polymers and protein in water.
What causes latex allergy?
Latex allergy is caused by the proteins in the sap. Allergy can also develop against other chemical substances used during rubber manufacture, and from the powder inside the rubber gloves.
What are the symptoms of latex allergy?
Allergy against latex is an early hypersensitivity reaction. Symptoms arise within one hour of contact with rubber and can include reddening of the skin and urticaria (skin rash) on the affected area. Skin rashes can also spread to untouched body surfaces. Sometimes tearing and respiratory symptoms (hayfever, asthma) are also present. The life-threatening collapse of the circulation and ventilation system (anaphylactic shock) is rare.
Allergy to the other chemical substances used during rubber manufacture is characterised by a delayed hypersensitivity reactions 24-72 hours after contact (allergic contact dermatitis).
How can you prevent latex allergy?
Latex allergy is usually caused by the use of rubber gloves. Using gloves that do not contain latex (e.g. gloves made of plastic or a synthetic rubber such as neoprene) causes no latex allergy, thus preventing the development of sensitisation. People who are already sensitised against latex should only wear plastic gloves.
Gloves termed ’hypoallergenic’ are also made of latex. These products release less latex, thus reducing the risk of sensitisation. These products are not safe for those who already have a proven latex allergy, but they are useful in diminishing the incidence of latex allergy in health care.
Because the powder inside latex gloves can contain latex and other chemical substances used during rubber manufacture, powderless gloves can also help reduce the risk of allergy.
Generally, it is recommended that gloves should be taken off when it is not necessary to wear them. Hands should also be washed carefully in order to remove latex particles stuck to the skin. Less contact time means less chance to become allergic. Removal of gloves also helps to avoid the maceration of the skin that would breach the natural barriers of the skin and allow latex to penetrate inside. Rings should not be worn under gloves because latex particles can be trapped underneath them for prolonged periods.