16 November 2011

Common Allergies. Part 3

Posted by Jody under: Allergies .

Latex Allergy. An allergy that has been steadily on the increase is to “latex”, the processed form of the milky sap derived from natural rubber trees. As with other allergies, the possibility of an allergic reaction increases with each exposure to the protein.

Therefore, those most at risk are those with frequent exposure to latex. While a synthetic latex exists, this does not generate an allergic reaction, as it does not contain the allergenic protein.

The use of latex has increased dramatically with the use of latex gloves as a barrier against the transmission of infectious diseases. Those most at risk: health care workers, including dentists, technicians, housekeeping personnel and food service workers. However, law enforcement personnel, fire fighters, EMTs and workers in the manufacturing plants for latex products are also at risk. Individuals with multiple allergies, and those with frequent, early medical intervention, such as with spina bifida, are also at increased susceptibility.

While avoidance of the offending allergen is critical, it may be harder than you think. Latex is not just in gloves, but in thousands of medical products such as IV tubing, catheters and bandages. Outside the medical arena, latex is used in tires, condoms, shoe soles, clothing (waistbands), erasers, rubber bands, swimming goggles, toys and pacifiers.

Some products, like balloons, can substitute Mylar for latex, but for many products no substitute is available.

Early symptoms include skin reactions:

  • Rashes, hives and flushing; and
  • Itching, congestion, eye irritation, wheezing, asthma and progression into anaphylaxis.

    Sensitive individuals may experience itching in the mouth after a dental exam, for example. Those allergic to the following foods may also be sensitive to latex: avocados, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, hazelnuts, chestnuts, kiwi and papayas.While direct skin contact is a problem, the allergen can also be inhaled. This primarily occurs when gloves are taken off, and the protein which has combined with the powder inside the glove becomes airborne. It is also important to avoid the use of oil-based creams and lotions when using latex gloves, as glove deterioration can occur and allow more protein particles to escape.

    If you suspect you have developed a latex allergy, avoid any contact with latex until a diagnosis can be confirmed. Let others know of your allergy. Even food served by cafeteria workers wearing latex gloves can create a reaction. Discuss with your physician the need for an emergency epinephrine kit and the wearing of a medic alert bracelet.

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