Latex Allergy Warning For Asthmatics


Individuals who work in health-care industries such as hospitals, medical offices, and dental offices are generally aware that they are at increased risk for developing latex allergies due to work exposure. However, even non-health care workers, especially children, may also be vulnerable.

There are three types of latex reactions. Irritant dermatitis, the most common reaction, is skin irritation caused by the rubbing of latex against the skin, usually rubber gloves. Contact dermatitis is a delayed skin reaction which occurs 24-48 hours after exposure to latex. Common causes of this include latex gloves or shoe insoles. An immediate hypersensitivity response happens quickly as a result of either contact with or inhalation on latex particles. It can include itching, nasal congestion, eye irritation, wheezing, coughing, laryngospasm, low blood pressure, and respiratory failure.

It is estimated that 1-5% of the general population has latex allergies while 2-17% of health care workers and 10% of rubber industry workers have similar reactions. Individuals at increased risk of developing latex allergies include those with asthma, atopic eczema and preexisting food allergy problems. Those who have had frequent urologic procedures, especially at a young age, are more susceptible, probably from exposure to latex catheters.

Other sources of latex exposure may include gloves, tourniquets, IV tubing ports, condoms, diaphragms, balloon-blowing, dental dams, erasers, mouse pads, shoe soles, elastic in clothing, adhesive tapes and bandages, orthodontic elastics, pacifiers and baby bottle nipples, goggles, and many other items. Severe reactions may occur during childbirth or during surgery which can quickly become life-threatening.

Many individuals with latex allergies may have a cross-reactivity reaction with many common foods including avocado, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, chestnuts, kiwi fruit, and passion fruit. Apples, apricots, nectarines, celery, cherries, figs, grapes, melon, milk, papayas, peaches, and pineapples may also have cross-reactive allergic affects on those who are sensitive to latex.

If an individual suspects that they or their child may be allergic to latex, it is advisable to get advice from an allergist. Diagnostic testing may include patch testing or RAST blood testing. Skin testing may be done only with close medical supervision as potentially life-threatening reactions may occur.

Those with known latex allergies should wear a medic-alert bracelet and notify their doctor and dentist. If they need dental or surgical procedures, they need to make sure that all of the individuals involved in their care be aware of their allergies and use substitute products or cover any latex-containing items that might touch the skin. It is also advisable for those with the immediate hypersensitivity response type of reaction to carry an emergency epinephrine injection pen at all times. In most cases, even those with severe latex allergies can lead perfectly normally lives as long as appropriate precautions are taken.

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