Latex the milky substance that is obtained from the sap of a tree called Syringa (Hevea brasiliensis).
Currently, latex is present in more than 40,000 products, a figure that is probably higher. The allergy due to exposure to latex can originate certain clinical manifestations:
-Irritant contact dermatitis, which is the most frequent manifestation and may consist of redness, swelling or appearance of cracks in the skin.
-Allergic contact or delayed dermatitis.
-Reactions of immediate hypersensitivity, which appears between a few minutes and a few hours after contact with latex. These reactions can be:
The symptoms will vary depending on different factors, either through the contact route, by the personal susceptibility, or by the amount of allergen.
The incidence in the general population is not known, although it is estimated at 1%, although there are sectors of the population, such as health professionals, in which the incidence is higher. It is believed that 2-17% of people working in health care are sensitized.
-Atopic People: They have a genetic predisposition to develop allergies. In these people allergy to fruits such as kiwi, banana or avocado is associated.
-Catheterized patients, patients who have been operated several times, patients with spina bifida or congenital urovesical diseases.
-Workers of the latex industry.
-Health personnel: Especially the operating room staff. In addition to gloves, latex can be part of probes, drains, masks and nasal glands, sphygmomanometers, adhesive material, bandages, etc…
-Other professional groups that wear latex gloves for long periods of time, cleaning, construction, food handlers, laboratory personnel.
-By direct contact: usually with the skin, but it can also be with internal mucous membranes or tissues.
-By air: due to the presence of latex particles in the environment. It can occur in operating rooms, rubber factories…
The diagnosis must be made by an allergist, being very important the clinical history in relation to the exposure to products containing latex, being able to also perform tests:
“In vivo”: the most important are the skin tests that detect the existence of type I hypersensitivity.
“In vitro”: the most used is the determination of specific antibodies.
The main thing when an allergy appears is the symptomatic treatment. Then your specialist can assess immunotherapy (specific vaccine).
How can Latex Allergies be Prevented?
It can be distinguished between primary prevention (in people at risk who are not sensitized) and secondary prevention (in patients already diagnosed with latex allergy).
-The incidence of the disease increases with the degree of exposure, so if you can reduce it, a very important step is taken.
-In the health field there is a tendency to the rational use of latex gloves, and there are recommendations for not using this type of gloves in tasks in which there is no risk of contact with hematological derivatives.
-Improvements in the manufacture of latex, reducing the allergenic content.
-Use latex gloves with low protein content, no dust or other material if possible.
-Avoid contact with the allergen.
-Allergic people should wear a bracelet, badge, or medical report that identifies them.
-They must always warn the allergy before any medical examination, dental surgery or nursing cure.
-Check the labeling of the products, and if in case of doubt consult the manufacturer.
-Use gloves of another material if possible: neoprene, vinyl.
-In the case of being allergic to certain fruits associated with latex allergy, always avoid them.
-Have the medication prescribed by the allergist available and follow their advice.
-In companies, periodic medical surveillance of workers, necessary to assess the effectiveness of the preventive measures applied.
Prevention is the key. It is perhaps the best decision a person can take if they have one or more risk factors. The most important advice is to avoid as much as possible contact with any type of product made of latex, and even synthetic latex. Currently there are several alternatives available.