Latex Allergy: A Rising Concern
A concert in Australia last year almost took a life when an audience member’s latex allergy was suddenly triggered. British award-winning singer Adele held a concert in Adelaide, Australia last year and during one of her song numbers a barrage of balloons were released on the audience. What was supposed to be a moment of levity quickly turned into an ugly and almost fatal incident when one audience member who has a severe latex allergy exhibited symptoms of her condition.
Dr. Pooja Newman who was attending the concert suddenly felt her lips starting to swell. Soon she was finding it hard to breathe and since she knew the severity of her condition she administered an epinephrine shot, with the assistance of her sister who was also with her, to herself. But after three EpiPen shots her symptoms didn’t abate and that’s when her sister decided to call for an ambulance.
Newman was admitted at the intensive care unit of a local hospital where she had to spend a few days before her symptoms went away. It was a harrowing experience for Newman and since she was the president of an advocacy group on anaphylaxis she started a petition to ban latex items in any concert arena or venue.
The numbers on latex allergy
Dr. Newman’s advocacy is valid but some medical experts are advising people not to jump the gun and ask for a worldwide ban on latex considering that the number of people suffering from this condition is still relatively small. Dr. Purvi Parikh, an expert in latex allergy, says that it’s too soon to implement a total ban on latex.
According to statistics about 1% of the population of the United States of America has latex allergy and according to Dr. Parikh most people who do have latex allergy developed this condition through repeated use of the material. This means that most of the people with latex allergy are those in the healthcare industry since latex gloves are often and largely used by healthcare professionals. People who also work in the rubber industry, for example production line employees who check the quality of rubber materials, can develop latex allergy. Patients with spina bifida, a birth defect affecting the spine, often develop latex allergy also due to repeated exposure to this material.
Lastly, people with a family history of allergies can develop latex allergy. A person with a history of allergies, even if it’s not related to latex allergy, can still develop an aversion to latex. The severity of the reaction to this material differs for every individual. Some only develop hives, rashes, itchy skin or redness of the skin, while others may develop more severe symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, wheezing, runny noses, watery and itchy eyes, scratchy throat and even difficulty in breathing. When someone finds it hard to breathe due to latex this could lead to a much more severe and oftentimes fatal symptom—anaphylaxis.
People who experience anaphylaxis experience symptoms such as:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Weakening pulse
- Swelling and hives
- Loss of consciousness
There are two ways that latex allergy can be triggered:
- Direct contact: This is the most common cause of latex allergy. Like Dr. Newman people who come into direct contact with latex can trigger their allergies. For these people avoidance of the material at all cost is the easiest way to prevent a reaction.
- Inhalation: Latex gloves often release particles in the air that can trigger a reaction even if they’re microscopic. This kind of trigger is much harder to avoid so people with latex allergy should always be prepared by bringing along with them antihistamines prescribed by their doctors. EpiPen are also necessary for those with severe latex allergies.
People with latex allergies should always be vigilant about their condition and what could trigger them because there are sources of latex that they might not be aware of. One patient suffered from latex allergy despite not handling any latex gloves. The doctor who attended to the patient found out that the person was wearing rubber flip flops, which had latex in it and the slippers is what triggered the reaction. People with latex allergy should also be careful using condoms since these products are often manufactured with latex in it. Fortunately, there are latex-free condoms being sold now so this particular situation is no longer a problem.
But going back to the issue at hand, though latex allergy is a serious concern for people with this condition the numbers showing how many are afflicted by this condition are still small. Medical experts say that more people are allergic to peanuts than latex so there shouldn’t be a call yet to ban all latex products. They simply advise people with this condition to learn more about latex allergy and be vigilant about their surroundings so as to properly avoid any allergens.
Medical experts also advise people with latex allergy to inform others about their condition so that more and more people are aware of the dangers of this allergy and so they’ll be more capable to help people afflicted with this in case of an attack.