Monday, March 4, 2013

About Latex Allergy

This is the offending tree from which we make so many things.
 We touched on latex allergy just a bit when I mentioned bungee cords.  Bungee cords, most of the time, are made of latex rubber and have silk or other fabric around the cords themselves.

         Latex Allergy comprises a really large range of potential symptoms.  The classic and most dangerous is the genuine anaphylactic reaction, where a physician, for example, who has never had a latex allergy before, dons gloves in the ER which are made of latex, and then promptly collapses. The ER staff are left wondering whether the physician had an MI (myocardial infarction or heart attack), an arrhythmia, or heart rhythm disturbance or has collapsed from a lengthy shift.  The most violent of reactions can cause airway swelling and rapid death, without rapid epinephrine injection.  
          Another type of potential latex allergy is a contact dermatitis, where the patient develops burning or a rash at the site of contact. This can produce wounds which ooze.    Another type of contact allergy is irritant contact dermatitis, where the person, on exposure to latex has burning and discomfort, but this does not progress furthur, at this time.
           Many people are at risk for latex allergy.  Anyone who is or has been a health care worker who had, even at one time, multiple exposures to latex, is at risk.  Anyone who has had an episode of a lot of medical interventions, or multiple hospitalizations or surgeries is also at risk.   Almost 70% of children with myelomeningocele or overt spina bifida are allergic to latex.

This is a fairly mild reaction to latex gloves. Can you imagine donning latex gloves again ?

            The problem is that latex gloves and materials all have in common that they share a common protein from the Hevea braciliensis tree, which is a type of rubber tree.  Some patients have such a violent reaction to latex, that they can react to something which has simply rested on top of something which contains latex. This can be a very serious and difficult allergy.

           Because a Johns-Hopkins study of latex allergy revealed that deaths from latex allergy are far more possible than was understood prior, almost all hospital systems are in the process of gradually replacing all their latex gloves with vinyl or nitrile gloves which have low potential for such reactions.  Sadly, many other medical and other products are still manufactured with latex.  Most nurses will use a latex foley catheter for example, not realizing that a silicone foley catheter can be ordered in its place.  Silicone is less flexible, but can be much safer in a latex sensitive patient.

         People with latex allergy may also have some food cross sensitivities.   Sometimes latex sensitive individuals show allergic reactions to mangoes, bananas, soy, kiwi, passionfruit, avocado, or pineapple.

         In addition, violently allergic people need to be very careful because everything from rubber gloves, some baby bottle nipples, condoms, cheaper tool handles,elastic bands, bungees,  clothing, (especially bras have latex components or threads) balloons, car interiors, some sneakers, and toys,  are often made of latex.   (Condoms can be substituted with the vinyl variety of condom, but these need to be located prior and are not available everywhere.)

More information:

Important points to take away:

  Anyone with a latex allergy should carry an Epipen kit with which to treat severe or anaphylactic reactions.

 Anyone can develop a latex allergy at any time.  We all need to be alert and aware.


David said...

Sobering stuff, considering that latex is used to some degree in just about everything these days.

JaneofVirginia said...

It certainly is. My flashlights are all made with latex, and they make my hands itch.

kaviya said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

Vinyl Disposable Gloves

Linda said...

I have so many allergies. One of my warnings is extreme ear drum pain. The doctor said my throat was starting to close and the pressure was initially felt in my ears. I have angioedema. There is always a swelling on my lip, tongue or neck. No, I don't have the epipen. Things make me itch, get a rash, and generally drive me crazy with itching. All my friends know my problem. I would have to avoid most foods to be better. Most things activate my contact dermatitis. Pressure on my skin causes hives. Latex is something I avoid.

I always alert doctors and nurses of latex allergy. However, I never thought about the caregivers having a latex allergy.

JaneofVirginia said...

Linda, A lot of people with multiple allergies really can be helped by an allergist. Others take generic Loratadine daily, and some take Benadryl at bedtime, because they find it can last through the day where they will no longer be drowsy the following day but the antihistaminic effect is still continuing for them. Latex allergy has killed a number of health care workers who simply had no known allergy to it, and then one day, developed one.