Latex refers to fluid obtained from rubber trees processed mainly into different types of rubber products, including the frequently used rubber gloves in healthcare/medical centers. In some people, exposure to latex-based products for a long time causes contact dermatitis i.e., an allergic or an irritant reaction.
Can Latex Gloves Cause Contact Dermatitis?
Doctors say that contact dermatitis problem takes place from medical gloves or surgical gloves. However, the prime reason behind such problem are chemical accelerators and not because of latex-made gloves.
Occupation related contact dermatitis or simply contact dermatitis refers to a complicated skin condition developing due to repeated and frequent usage of hand hygiene solutions, frequent usage of gloves and exposure to various harmful chemicals. Especially, the problem takes place in the hands of medical professionals and also other people wearing latex gloves frequently. However, the problem does not take place only because of latex. Instead, the gloves contain various other chemical additives in combination with latex that can cause severe irritation to your skin or contact dermatitis.
Even gloves trap moisture content against your skin to make it soft and relatively high vulnerable to various irritants. Hence, the combination of each of the mentioned factors causes contact dermatitis. Symptoms related to latex dermatitis include itching or redness on one’s skin. Even in some cases, latex dermatitis may cause cracking and dryness of the skin.
Types of Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis problem may be of two different types i.e. allergic and irritant.
Irritant type of Contact Dermatitis
Irritant type of contact dermatitis is a non-allergic and a common form of dermatitis, which develops as an itchy, dry and irritated area on the skin across the contact area. This mainly takes place because of chemicals and other similar irritants used often in the manufacture of gloves and other similar types of hand products. Even this takes place due to improper hand drying before wearing gloves, acids, detergents, soaps, solvents, alkalis and friction.
Allergic type of Contact Dermatitis
Allergic type of contact dermatitis recognized as type IV based hypersensitivity manifests red rash, itchy and small blisters in the skin and it starts after about 6 hours to 48 hours of your contact with latex gloves. In addition, allergic contact dermatitis may even take place because of your exposure to accelerators and related chemicals used mainly in the manufacturing of gloves (both non-latex and latex gloves).
Chemical Accelerators in Gloves-Prime Culprit to Cause Contact Dermatitis
Chemical accelerators or simply accelerators refer to chemicals used mainly in the manufacturing of medical exam and surgical gloves in combination with latex and other types of synthetic materials. These chemicals are responsible to stabilize the rubber in the form of raw material during its curing process. In this way, it forms elastic and a strong surgical/medical glove to provide comfort and protection both. However, along with providing safety to doctors/surgeons and other medical professionals, chemical accelerators in some cases, especially Thiurams type of accelerators often cause the problem of rubber contact allergy among healthcare professionals.
Treatment of Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Treatment of allergic contact dermatitis caused due to medical/surgical gloves involves taking a few steps to avoid or cure skin rashes. These include-
- Wash the skin properly by applying cold water and mild soap to overcome a majority of your symptoms related to the problem.
- In case the rash takes place in only a small area in your body, you should apply hydrocortisone cream to get relief immediately. On the other side, to cure blisters, you should apply cold moist type of compress for half an hour and 3 times in one day.
- If you suffer from damaged skin, you should apply moisturizers for many times in a day. This helps in the restoration of the protective skin layer.
- Lastly, you should intake oral antihistamines to get immediate relief from itching.
- Contact your physician or dermatologist as soon as possible if the irritation or allergy symptoms persist to avoid contact dermatitis due to latex gloves.
Mayo Clinic – Contact Dermatitis: Learn more about contact dermatitis, its causes, symptoms, and treatments. Mayo Clinic – Contact Dermatitis
National Eczema Association – Contact Dermatitis: Find insights into allergic and irritant contact dermatitis, including prevention and treatment. National Eczema Association – Contact Dermatitis
PubMed Central – Latex Gloves and Allergic Reactions: A scientific article discussing latex gloves, accelerators, and allergic reactions. PubMed Central – Latex Gloves and Allergic Reactions
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology – Latex Allergy: Read about latex allergies, including symptoms and treatment options. ACAAI – Latex Allergy