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Latex Allergy: Reduce Exposure

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This information was reviewed and approved by Karin A. Pacheco, MD, MSPH (1/1/2012).

Environmental control – decreasing or eliminating exposure to the latex allergen – is the best way to reduce symptoms in those already latex allergic, and prevent the allergy from developing in other exposed patients and health care workers. Evidence shows that allergy and asthma symptoms may improve over time if the recommended environmental control changes are made. Environmental control measures to consider for allergy to latex include:

  • Generally, the most important latex exposure to avoid is powder from powdered latex gloves. Solid objects containing latex, such as rubber bands, blood pressure tubing, bicycle tires, and the like, are not a hazard for asthma or hay fever symptoms because they do not emit latex particles.
  • A latex-safe environment is one where latex allergic patients and staff do not use any latex-containing items, and co-workers and other patients do not use powdered latex gloves, but instead use non-powdered latex, or, preferably, non-latex gloves.  Both latex-allergic and non-allergic patients and staff are protected against allergic reactions in this environment. 
  • Healthcare workers allergic to latex should wear alternative products such as nitrile examining gloves instead of latex, and they should ask their coworkers to wear nitrile gloves, or at least a non-powdered latex glove. If this is not possible, seek reassignment to an area where powdered latex gloves are not used.
  • Non-healthcare professionals allergic to latex should communicate their allergic conditions to medical staff when undergoing a checkup or medical procedure. This is especially important in the case of surgery. You could even bring your own non-latex gloves to any medical appointment in case your caregiver doesn't have any.
  • Check labeling on products you buy. ‘Hypoallergenic' does not necessarily mean ‘no latex'.
  • Wear a med-alert bracelet or necklace describing your allergy, in case you ever need emergency care.
  • Carry an injectable epinephrine pen in case of an anaphylactic reaction, although these are very rare.

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