Latex Allergy

What causes latex allergy?

Latex allergy reactions result from exposure to either the proteins or chemicals found in natural rubber latex products. The proteins may also adhere to the powder used on some gloves to make them easier to put on and take off. Regular and repeated use of latex gloves can result in the wearer becoming highly sensitive to the proteins or chemicals found in any latex product.

Who is at risk?

Latex gloves have proved effective in preventing transmission of many infectious diseases to health care workers. But for some workers, exposures to latex may result in allergic reactions. Reports of such reactions have increased in recent years--especially among health care workers.

In addition to health care, other workers who are at risk but with less frequent glove use include hairdressers, housekeepers, food service workers and child care workers.

What are the symptoms of latex allergy?

Symptoms of latex allergy can include skin rash and irritation, hives, nasal congestion, asthma, and in rare instances, shock. Individuals who develop an allergy to latex may also have similar cross-reactions to certain foods (e.g., avocado, banana, potato, tomato, kiwi fruit and papaya). Individuals prone to allergy are at greatest risk for developing an allergy to latex.

In addition, many individuals may experience hypersensitivity reactions, such as skin rash, from chemicals used in the production of glove products.

Latex allergy prevention

In many instances, depending on the exposure, workers can get the required level of protection from nitrile, vinyl or other synthetic gloves. When latex gloves are used, powder-free gloves with reduced protein content should be used. It is important to keep in mind that the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard states that glove alternatives shall be accessible to those employees who are allergic to the gloves normally provided.

Regulation & Policy

Where the potential for latex allergy is a recognized hazard in your workplace, hazard reduction methods should be included in your overall accident prevention program.

How can I get more help from L&I?

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