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 reactions?
Types of Latex Allergy
First, you need to know that there are actually two sources of latex allergy, producing two distinct allergic reactions.
1. Latex allergy that affects the immune system, resulting in a minor skin rash. This type is often blamed on the chemical additives used in making the gloves.
2. 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 the prevalence of latex allergy is largely due to the increase in latex use. In the medical industry, doctors have been using latex to protect themselves from infectious diseases when touching a patient’s blood, urine, feces, or other organisms 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 patient’s 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.
Symptoms & Treatment
For a person with a latex allergy, exposure to latex could result in a number of symptoms, some of them even life-threatening. The signs may include
• Nasal congestion
• Runny nose
• Shortness of breath
• Difficulty breathing
Other symptoms include:
• Skin Rashes
• Itchy skin
An allergy to latex can become worse the more you come in contact with it. So if you know you have this condition, be aware of products that may have the potential to cause a reaction. Ask your doctor if you need to avoid them.
• Get your Skin/Blood Tested
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 Test
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.
For Blood Test
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.
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