Hypersensitivity to latex is referred to as latex allergy. Latex is a natural substance that’s formed out of milky sap of a rubber tree. This allergic reaction occurs when the immune system of the body reacts to toxins, bacteria, and viruses, and even reacts to latex - a substance that’s called an allergen.
Image Credits: Pinterest.com
Whenever our immune system detects the presence of an allergen in our body, it releases an antibody named immunoglobulin E (IgE) and it further triggers chemical release in the body. One chemical released during allergic reactions is histamine. It is responsible for causing itching, swelling, and redness on the skin during the allergic reaction. Besides that, this chemical substance also causes difficulty in breathing, tissue swelling, blood pressure drop, and increase in pulse.
Latex is a flexible and elastic material that’s used in various healthcare and consumer products. It is able to form a barrier between skin and infectious organisms, hence mainly used in hospitals in form of gloves or to cover other medical items. In addition, latex has also been used in the making of numerous consumer products, from balloons, shoe soles and rubber hoses o condoms.
With increasing latex products in the market, the chances of latex allergies also increase. Aside from the workers who manufacture latex products, people who have to undergo surgical procedures may develop latex allergies. For instance, a child born with the birth defect called spina bifida is repeatedly exposed to latex products due to a series of medical procedures. So, around 50% of children with spina bifida are likely to have a latex allergy.
People may even become sensitive to latex even as a result of direct contact with natural products. Inhalation of latex particles is a common way that workers get sensitized to latex. Usually, medical gloves are coated with cornstarch for easily pulling them on and off. But cornstarch absorbs the latex protein and carries them into the air, making their inhalation easier.
The allergic reaction to a rubber latex appears one or two days after the exposure to the products made from latex. The common symptoms that appear on the skin are reddish, cracked blisters.
Other common symptoms include a runny nose, hives, and allergic asthma. In rare cases, severe allergy can cause anaphylaxis, which further results in allergic reactions like a sudden drop in blood pressure, increased pulse, tissue swelling, and difficulty in breathing.
If your doctor suspects allergic symptoms related to latex sensitivity, he/she may suggest you for a blood test called RAST. This way they can determine whether you are sensitive to latex or not. In this test, the amount of latex-associated with IgE antibodies is measured in your blood. Even skin tests for latex allergy are done to confirm the diagnosis.
One of the simplest ways to avoid latex allergy is to avoid exposure to the products made from latex. This means you should not wear gloves made of latex when washing clothes or utensils. Even avoid using condoms and rubber bands made from latex.
But for people working in a healthcare field, avoiding latex is not possible. In that case, they may look for products that are not made from latex or limited the exposure to these products. Even the amount of latex allergens used in the manufacturing of various gloves varies. The gloves that are powdered with cornstarch are likely to cause more problem. So, it’s better to use gloves that are not powdered.
The simplest treatment is to avoid repeated exposure to latex that may cause sensitivity. The treatment actually depends on the type and severity of your reaction. Usually, antihistamine medicaments are prescribed to block the release of histamine to decrease allergic reactions. Even corticosteroid drugs are powerful anti-inflammatory agents and can be used to control the severe symptoms.