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Effective ways of preventing latex allergies in the workplace

Pacifiers Baby bottle nipples Individuals who already have latex allergy should be aware of latex-containing products that may trigger an allergic reaction.

  1. Change protective clothing after any latex contact. Certain proteins in latex may cause sensitization positive blood or skin test, with or without symptoms.
  2. More severe reactions may involve respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, and asthma difficult breathing, coughing spells, and wheezing. Use nonlatex gloves for activities that are not likely to involve contact with infectious materials food preparation, routine housekeeping, general maintenance, etc.
  3. How can I protect myself from latex allergy?
  4. The first reaction began with asthma severe enough to require treatment in an emergency room.
  5. When powdered gloves are worn, more latex protein reaches the skin.

Some of the listed products are available in latex-free forms. Latex in the Workplace Workers in the health care industry physicians, nurses, dentists, technicians, etc. Also at risk are workers with less frequent glove use hairdressers, housekeepers, food service workers, etc.

Latex-allergy prevention and control strategies in healthcare

Types Of Reactions to Latex Three types of reactions can occur in persons using latex products: Irritant contact dermatitis Allergic contact dermatitis delayed hypersensitivity Latex allergy Irritant Contact Dermatitis The most common reaction to latex products is irritant contact dermatitis -- the development of dry, itchy, irritated areas on the skin, usually the hands.

This reaction is caused by skin irritation from using gloves and possibly by exposure to other workplace products and chemicals. The reaction can also result from repeated hand washing and drying, incomplete hand drying, use of cleaners and sanitizers, and exposure to powders added to the gloves. Irritant contact dermatitis is not a true allergy. Chemical Sensitivity Dermatitis Allergic contact dermatitis delayed hypersensitivity, also sometimes called chemcial sensitivity dermatitis results from exposure to chemicals added to latex during harvesting, processing, or manufacturing.

These chemicals can cause skin reactions similar to those caused by poison ivy. As with poison ivy, the rash usually begins 24 to 48 hours after contact and may progress to oozing skin blisters or spread away from the area of skin touched by the latex. Latex Allergy Latex allergy immediate hypersensitivity can be a more serious reaction to latex than irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis. Certain proteins in latex may cause sensitization positive blood or skin test, with or without symptoms.

Although the amount of exposure needed to cause sensitization or symptoms is not known, exposures at even very low levels effective ways of preventing latex allergies in the workplace trigger allergic reactions in some sensitized individuals. Reactions usually begin within minutes of exposure to latex, but they can occur hours later and can produce various symptoms.

Latex Allergy A Prevention Guide

Mild reactions to latex involve skin redness, hives, or itching. More severe reactions may involve respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, and asthma difficult breathing, coughing spells, and wheezing. Rarely, shock may occur; but a life-threatening reaction is seldom the first sign of latex allergy. Such reactions are similar to those seen in some allergic persons after a bee sting.

Levels and Routes of Exposure Studies of other allergy-causing substances provide evidence that the higher the overall exposure in a population, the greater the likelihood that more individuals will become sensitized [Venables and Chan-Yeung 1997]. The amount of latex exposure needed to produce sensitization or an allergic reaction is unknown; however, reductions in exposure to latex proteins have been reported to be associated with decreased sensitization and symptoms [Tarlo et al.

Dust produced by removing a latex glove containing powder. The proteins responsible for latex allergies have been shown to fasten to powder that is used on some latex gloves. When effective ways of preventing latex allergies in the workplace gloves are worn, more latex protein reaches the skin. In contrast, work areas where only powder-free gloves are used show low levels or undetectable amounts of the allergy-causing proteins [Tarlo 1994; Swanson et al. Wearing latex gloves during episodes of hand dermatitis may increase skin exposure and the risk of developing latex allergy.

The risk of progression from skin rash to more serious reactions is unknown. However, a skin rash may be the first sign that a worker has become allergic to latex and that more serious reactions could occur with continuing exposure [Kelly et al.

  1. Variations may also exist between lots produced by the same manufacturer.
  2. Although the FDA requires labeling of medical products that contain latex, many workers may not read the label prior to glove use because they have relied on the color.
  3. Who is at Risk? The fourth and most severe reaction occurred when she put on latex gloves at work.

Who is at Risk? Workers with ongoing latex exposure are at risk for developing latex allergy. Such workers include health care workers physicians, nurses, aides, dentists, dental hygienists, operating room employees, laboratory technicians, and hospital housekeeping personnel who frequently use latex gloves and other latex-containing medical supplies.

Workers who use latex gloves less frequently law enforcement personnel, ambulance attendants, funeral-home workers, fire fighters, painters, gardeners, food service workers, and housekeeping personnel may also develop latex allergy. Workers in factories where latex products are manufactured or used can also be affected. Atopic individuals persons with a tendency to have multiple allergic conditions are at increased risk for developing latex allergy.

Healthcare workers

Latex allergy is also associated with allergies to certain foods especially avocado, potato, banana, tomato, chestnuts, kiwi fruit, and papaya. People with spina bifida are also at increased risk for latex allergy. Diagnosing Latex Allergy Latex allergy should be suspected in anyone who develops certain symptoms after latex exposure, including nasal, eye, or sinus irritation; hives; shortness of breath; coughing; wheezing; or unexplained shock.

Any exposed worker who experiences these symptoms should be evaluated by a physician, since further exposure could result in a serious allergic reaction. A diagnosis is made by using the results of a medical history, physical examination, and tests. Taking a complete medical history is the first step in diagnosing latex allergy.

Other diagnostic tools include a standardized glove-use test or skin tests that involve scratching or pricking the skin through a drop of liquid containing latex proteins.

A positive reaction is shown by itching, swelling or redness at the test site. Effective ways of preventing latex allergies in the workplace, no FDA-approved materials are yet available to use in skin testing for latex allergy.

Testing is also available to diagnose allergic contact dermatitis. In this FDA-approved test, a special patch containing latex additives is applied to the skin and checked over several days. A positive reaction is shown by itching, redness, swelling, or blistering where the patch covered the skin.

Occasionally, tests may fail to confirm a worker who has a true allergy to latex, or tests may suggest latex allergy in a worker with no clinical symptoms. Therefore, test results must be evaluated by a knowledgeable physician. Treating Latex Allergy Once a worker becomes allergic to latex, special precautions are needed to prevent exposuresduring work as well as during medical or dental care. Certain medications may reduce the allergy symptoms, but complete latex avoidance though quite difficult is the most effective approach.

Many facilities maintain latex-safe areas for affected patients and workers. How Common is Latex Allergy?

  • Environmental strategies Other strategies include good housekeeping practices to remove latex-containing dust from the workplace through identification of areas contaminated with latex dust, and the scheduling of these areas for frequent cleaning including upholstery, carpets, ventilation ducts, and plenums;
  • Reported allergic latex reactions in patients or workers because of selection of incorrect glove based on color.

The prevalence of latex allergy has been studied by several methods: Questionnaires to assess reactions to latex gloves Medical histories of reactions to latex-containing products Skin tests Tests for latex antibodies in a worker's blood Reports about the prevalence of latex allergy vary greatly. This variation is probably due to different levels of exposure and methods for estimating latex sensitization or allergy.

Among sensitized workers, a variable proportion have symptoms or signs of latex allergy. Several reasons may exist for the large numbers of latex allergies recently reported in workers [Truscott 1995]: See CFR in references.

Some manufacturers may have produced more allergenic gloves because of changes in raw materials, processing, or manufacturing procedures to meet the increased demand for latex gloves [Hunt et al. These production changes may account partly for the varied concentrations of extractable latex proteins reported for latex gloves up to a 3,000-fold difference in gloves from various manufacturers [Yunginger et al. Variations may also exist between lots produced by the same manufacturer.

Physicians are more familiar with latex allergy and have improved methods for diagnosing it. Case Reports The following case reports briefly describe the experiences of six workers who developed latex allergy after occupational exposures.

Latex Allergies

These cases are not representative of all reactions to latex but are examples of the most serious types of reactions. They illustrate what has occurred in some individuals. Initially, the symptoms occurred only on contact with the gloves; but later, symptoms occurred effective ways of preventing latex allergies in the workplace the technician was exposed only to latex particles in the air [Seaton et al. She had worked for 7 years as an inspector at a medical supply company, where her job included inflating latex gloves coated with cornstarch.

Her symptoms began within 10 minutes of starting work and worsened later in the day 90 minutes after leaving work. Symptoms disappeared completely while she was on a 12-day vacation, but they returned on her first day back at work [Tarlo et al. Eventually she developed severe respiratory symptoms in the health care environment even when she had no direct contact with latex.

The nurse was forced to leave her occupation because of these health effects [Bauer et al. Within a year, she developed asthma, and 2 years later she went into shock after a routine gynecological examination during which latex gloves were used. The midwife also suffered respiratory distress in latex-containing environments when she had no direct contact with latex products. She was unable to continue working [Bauer et al. He was successfully resuscitated by a cardiac arrest team [Rosen et al.

The first reaction began with asthma severe enough to require treatment in an emergency room. The second and third reactions were similar to the first. The fourth and most severe reaction occurred when she put on latex gloves at work. She went into severe shock and was successfully treated in an emergency room [Rosen et al.

Conclusions Latex allergy in the workplace can result in potentially serious health problems for workers, who are often unaware of the risk of latex exposure. Such health problems can be minimized or prevented by following the recommendations outlined in this Alert. Recommendactions The following recommendations for preventing latex allergy in the workplace are based on current knowledge and a common-sense approach to minimizing latex-related health problems.

Evolving manufacturing technology and improvements in measurement methods may lead to changes in these recommendations in the future.

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For now, adoption of the recommendations wherever feasible will contribute to the reduction of exposure and risk for the development of latex allergy. Employers Latex allergy can be prevented only if employers adopt policies to protect workers from undue latex exposures. NIOSH recommends that employers take the following steps to protect workers from latex exposure and allergy in the workplace: Provide workers with nonlatex gloves to use when there is little potential for contact with infectious materials for example, in the food service industry.

Appropriate barrier protection is necessary when handling infectious materials [CDC 1987]. If latex gloves are chosen, provide reduced protein, powder-free gloves to protect workers from infectious materials.

The goal of this recommendation is to reduce exposure to allergy-causing proteins antigens. Until well accepted standardized tests are available, total protein serves as a useful indicator of the exposure of concern. Ensure that workers use good housekeeping practices to remove latex-containing dust from the workplace: Provide workers with education programs and training materials about latex allergy. Periodically screen high-risk workers for latex allergy symptoms.

Detecting symptoms early and removing symptomatic workers from latex exposure are essential for preventing long-term health effects. Evaluate current prevention strategies whenever a worker is diagnosed with latex allergy. Workers Workers should take the following steps to protect themselves from latex exposure and allergy in the workplace: Use nonlatex gloves for activities that are not likely to involve contact with infectious materials food preparation, routine housekeeping, maintenance, etc.