Latex allergies are often developed from repeated exposure over a long period of time. Certain proteins in natural rubber latex can produce allergic reactions. Workers in the healthcare industry are at especially high risk for developing an allergic reaction, as are hairdressers, food service employees, housekeepers, and others who come into contact with natural rubber latex. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8-10% of the 7.7 million healthcare employees in the United States have some sort of sensitivity to latex.
The people most at risk for developing latex allergies include people who have:
- Food allergies
- Defective bone marrow cells
- Multiple surgeries
- Urinary tract or bladder infections
- Asthma, eczema, or other allergies
Employees in the rubber industry, as well as those who regularly handle natural rubber latex, such as employees in the fire fighting, law enforcement, and service industries, are at risk for developing latex allergies. While physical contact with rubber latex is the most common means of exposure, inhalation of powder in rubber gloves, exposure through mucous membranes, and blood exposure through medical devices containing rubber could also cause serious allergic reactions.
Symptoms of Latex Allergies
Mild allergic reactions, known as irritant contact dermatitis, may cause burning, itching, lesions, scaling, and dryness. More severe allergic contact dermatitis has similar symptoms, but it typically lasts longer and can affect more areas of the body than irritant contact dermatitis. Latex hypersensitivity, also known as immediate allergic reaction to latex, can product symptoms similar to hay fever, as well as hives, itching, cramps, conjunctivitis, tremors, and difficulty breathing. Patients could also experience chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and anaphylactic shock.
Tips for Avoid Latex Allergic Reactions
For those who handle natural rubber latex on a regular basis, avoiding latex allergies can be difficult. Using non-latex gloves, or at least reduced-protein, powder-free latex gloves, can help prevent serious allergic reactions. There are also a variety of household items to avoid. These include clothing with natural rubber elastic bands, sink mats or stoppers made of rubber, rubber toys, toothbrushes with rubber handles, and pens with rubber grips or coating.
At the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia, we provide diagnostic and treatment services to patients suffering from latex allergies. Our Georgia allergists will provide personal assistance every step of the way as you seek relief. Call us today by dialing (404) 994-3574 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment.