Anyone can develop a latex allergy, and it's unfortunately more common in people who come into regular contact with latex.
How well you manage your allergy at work depends on the level of your reaction. Those with severe symptoms may even end up being unable to continue working in a healthcare environment.
Why latex gloves are used for medical practice
Latex gloves are preferred for strength and exclusion of viral particles. Some synthetic gloves e.g. vinyl, are not as strong or impermeable, and should not be used as protection for blood and body fluids. They also tend to be cheaper and more comfortable than their alternatives.
Why latex can cause allergic reactions
The natural rubber latex is the milky sap from the rubber tree. This contains proteins that can lead to anaphylaxis. The powder that manufacturers put inside the gloves to help hem slip more easily onto hands, absorbs the protein and is released into the air when put on, making the allergy also an airborne one and therefore harder to avoid.
Best practice for anaesthetists with latex allergies
- Seek good quality occupational advice in view of the high risk work environment
- There is no treatment available at present apart from latex avoidance, which must include avoiding the inhalation of powder from latex gloves
- The best hope for continued anaesthetic practice is to get early diagnosis
- The severity of the reaction to latex must be determined
- Those with severe symptoms may not able to work in acute health care environment
- If symptoms are not severe, anaesthetists may be able to work in the clinical area
- Areas where powdered gloves are used should be avoided
- Neoprene/nitrile gloves should be used instead where there is a risk of blood contamination
- Non-powdered latex or synthetic gloves should be worn by other staff in the area
- Outside the work environment care also needs to be taken, particularly avoiding latex balloons and latex condoms