An increasing number of Americans are becoming allergic to latex, a natural substance derived from the milky sap of the rubber tree. Found in Africa, latex is used to make a variety of products, including rubber gloves, balloons, tires, condoms and diaphragms, and elastic bands. They may also be found in healthcare products, such as catheters, intravenous tubing, dressings, stethoscopes, syringes, and bandages. Many of these products cannot be avoided by both the consumer and the healthcare worker, so how can you control latex allergy reaction?
First, you need to know that there are actually two sources of latex allergy, producing two distinct allergic reactions. The first type of latex allergy affects the immune system, resulting in minor skin rash. This type is often blamed on the chemical additives used in making the gloves.
The second latex allergy is a full-fledged allergic reaction to the latex itself. It results in more serious reactions, causing the person to develop itchy, red hives, rhinitis/hay fever, a runny nose, and asthma. In extreme cases, latex allergy may also cause anaphylaxis, a restriction of the air due to airway swelling, which, if not treated promptly, can cause sudden death.
The increase in prevalence of latex allergy is largely due to the increase of latex use. In the medical industry, doctors have been using latex to protect themselves from infectious diseases when touching a patientís blood, urine, feces, or other organism that may pass on an infection. In addition, more and more medical professionals these days are using latex gloves for simple procedures that never required gloves in the past, such as checking the pus in a patientís hand.
As a result of this increased exposure to latex, the occurrence of latex allergy also increased. Also, airborne latex particles have also been inhaled, triggering allergic reactions to people predisposed to develop latex allergy. A study confirmed that cornstarch used to coat the latex for easier use in putting gloves on and off absorbs the proteins and shed them into the air. This results in more people inhaling the particles, prompting latex allergy response.
Another way for you to avoid latex allergy reaction is to get yourself skin or blood-tested to determine if you have a positive response to latex. Knowing whether you have the allergy or not is always the first step in preventing the condition from occurring in the first place. So once you know, you can now take proper steps to avoid what causes your latex allergy.
For skin tests, a small solution of latex components is injected into the skin. The one conducting the test will know if you are allergic if swelling in the area occurs. Another method is blood testing. To test for latex allergy, a sample of your blood is taken and checked for certain types of allergy-producing antibodies, called IgE (immunoglobulin E).
For a person with latex allergy, exposure to latex could result in a number of symptoms, some of them even life-threatening. The signs may include nasal congestion, a runny nose, and asthma-like symptoms, including shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and wheezing. Other symptoms include skin rashes, pus, and itchy skin.