Repeated Exposure to Latex Can Cause Serious Health Problems
The newest "media trend" regarding allergies is latex allergies, which are being increasingly identified in healthcare workers and others who come into contact with latex frequently.
Medical and dental gloves and tubing, condoms and balloons are examples of products containing latex (latex is derived from rubber trees). The allergy was discovered over twenty years ago in Europe but has only recently been identified in the United States. It is widely believed that the increased incidence of latex allergy is due to increased usage of the product and changes in manufacturing methods.
Sales of latex gloves rose from about $126 million in 1987 to $263 million in 1991. The FDA issued a warning to physicians in 1991 to closely monitor patients who had shown previous symptoms of latex allergies.
A newly published study concludes that the incidence of latex allergy in hospital employees is 17%, and a previous study found the incidence of 14.4% among healthcare workers. Symptoms of exposure to latex can be mild to severe and range from wheezing, tightness of the chest, generalized hives, nasal stuffiness, to anaphylaxis. Latex allergy can also present itself as a skin rash or contact dermatitis, usually of the hands.
All patients who are severely allergic to latex should wear a medical alert bracelet. In case of surgery, a latex-free environment has to be observed. Because of the severity of latex allergies, if you have symptoms suggestive of latex allergy, you should be tested in our office.