Latex is a milky liquid produced by the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) which, together with other chemicals, is further processed into various rubber products (gloves, balloons, condoms, etc.).
- people employed in the medical field,
- patients with frequent operations,
- workers in the rubber processing industry,
- Atopic people (people with a tendency to develop allergies)
Natural latex is found in countless medical commodities, but is also widely used in our technical and domestic environment. Natural latex has been used for many decades. Since the 1980s, the medical use of rubber gloves to protect against infections has increased dramatically. Inflammation and irritation of the skin can be caused by direct contact (urticaria, eczema). Often, these gloves are powdered with corn starch powder for comfortable wear. It is now known that corn starch very easily absorbs allergy-inducing proteins from the gloves and these are then distributed into the air when removing the gloves. These particles are inhaled into the respiratory tract and can trigger inflammatory changes in the mucous membranes (conjunctivitis, runny nose, asthma attacks). In addition to the occupational impairment of people who have to deal with latex in the workplace, threatening situations may arise when latex allergy sufferers are medically treated. Surgery, gynaecological examinations, or dental interventions can lead to life-threatening allergies.
The diagnosis of a latex allergy is made by an analysis of the medical history, a skin test with latex extract, and a blood test (determination of antibodies against latex).
The treatment of the latex allergy consists in avoiding contact with the allergen. Low sensitised patients can usually protect themselves by avoiding direct latex contact and antihistamines when needed; however, the transition to more advanced stages of the disease is not always preventable. Highly allergic patients may experience significant allergic problems despite medication in an environment where latex products are used. In these cases, occupational latex exposure should be ceased as soon as possible, e.g. the use of latex-free gloves by the person concerned and unpowdered gloves by the colleagues. In some cases, the allergy can only be controlled by a career change.
A vaccination against latex allergy does not exist.
An allergy passport must always be carried by the patient; all attending physicians and dentists must be made aware of the presence of a latex allergy.
There are so-called “allergen families” between botanically related plants. That is why the same proteins are found in various plant foods as in latex. Latex allergic people sometimes cannot tolerate the following foods: bananas, avocados, chestnuts, mangos, and other tropical fruits.
Latex-containing articles that can trigger the allergy:
Medical field: gloves, bandages, adhesive bandages or tapes, condoms, syringes, infusion accessories, tubing on equipment, catheters, tooth adjustments, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers.
Other: condoms, diaphragms, balloons, rubber gloves, pacifiers, car tires, paints/coatings, raincoats, shoe soles, carpet backing, latex mattresses, adhesives.