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Natural latex gloves have had its critics through possible association with allergic reactions, often referred to as latex allergy, in particular Type 1 and Type 4 allergies, that can cause eczema-like hand irritation.

It is true that, for significantly less than 1% of the population who are “Type 1 Allergic”, one or more proteins in natural rubber latex can cause a hypersensitivity reaction. Type 4 allergy, however, is a reaction to chemicals used in the manufacturing process for all types of rubber glove, latex, nitrile and synthetic. A latex allergy can either be caused by natural rubber latex, which is a very rare occurrence, or by chemicals from the glove’s production process.

Most manufacturers, including market leader TK Bosaeng Glove, have worked hard to eliminate these chemicals from the production, and Type 4 allergies are now becoming much less commonly associated with rubber gloves.

Types of Allergies (Latex Allergy)

Natural rubber latex is known to cause Type I and Type IV allergic reactions, as well as irritant contact dermatitis.

Type I

The most serious and rare form of latex allergy, Type I hypersensitivity can cause an immediate and potentially life-threatening reaction, not unlike the severe reaction some people have to bee stings. Such reactions account for a significant proportion of perioperative anaphylactic reaction; especially in children with myelomeningocele. Type I natural rubber latex allergy is an IgE (immune) mediated reaction to proteins found in the Hevea-brasiliensis tree, a type of rubber tree.

Testing for type I natural rubber latex allergy is through blood testing to determine if the patient is producing IgE antibodies to latex proteins.

Anaphylactic shock can be provoked in allergic persons by the previous use of latex in an area: latex is typically powdered to prevent sticking, latex proteins become attached to the particles of powder, and the powder becomes airborne when the latex item is used, triggering potentially life-threatening Type I reactions when the latex-contaminated powder is inhaled by susceptible persons. In radiological units latex allergy may mimic contrast medium allergy.

Type IV (allergic contact dermatitis)

Type IV allergy, also known as allergic contact dermatitis, involves a delayed skin rash that is similar to poison ivy with blistering and oozing of the skin. It can be diagnosed through a positive skin patch test, although a negative test does not rule out a latex allergy. Severe irritation takes place if a latex catheter is inserted in the urinary tract of a person allergic to latex. That is especially severe in case of a radical prostatectomy due to the open wound there and the exposure lasting e.g. two weeks. Intense pain may indicate such situation. (Reference: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/urology/radical_prostatectomy_92,p09111/ )

Irritant contact dermatitis

Natural rubber latex can also cause irritant contact dermatitis, a less severe form of reaction that does not involve the immune system. Contact dermatitis causes dry, itchy, irritated areas on the skin, most often on the hands. Latex-glove induced dermatitis increases the chance of hospital-acquired infections, including blood-borne infections, being transmitted.

Latex-fruit syndrome

People who have latex allergy may also have or develop an allergic response to some plants and/or products of these plants such as fruits. This is known as the latex-fruit syndrome. Fruits (and seeds) involved in this syndrome include banana, pineapple, avocado, chestnut, kiwi fruit, mango, passionfruit, fig, strawberry and soy. Some but not all of these fruits contain a form of latex. Hevein-like protein domains are a possible cause for allergen cross-reactivity between latex and banana or fruits in general.

Risk factors

  • Children with spina bifida, up to 68% will have a reaction.
  • Industrial rubber workers, exposed for long periods to high amounts of latex. About 10% develop an allergic reaction.
  • Health care providers given the ubiquitous use of latex products in health care settings, management of latex allergy presents significant health organizational problems. Those healthcare workers—such as physicians, nurses, aides, dentists, dental hygienists, operating room employees, occupational therapists, laboratory technicians, and hospital housekeeping personnel—who frequently use latex gloves and other latex-containing medical supplies are at risk for developing latex allergy. Between about 4% to 17% of healthcare workers have a reaction, which usually presents as Irritant Contact Dermatitis. This contact dermatitis can develop further through allergic sensitivity to a status of full anaphylactic shock. Apart from the uncomfortable and in some cases life-threatening health implications, this will effectively hinder the person from working with any amount of latex and could impede their chance of maintaining their vocation. In the surgical setting, the risk of a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction by a patient has been deemed by Johns Hopkins Hospital to be sufficiently high to replace all latex surgical gloves with synthetic alternatives.
  • People who have had multiple surgical procedures, especially in childhood.

Epidemiology

Estimates of latex sensitivity in the general population range from 0.8% to 5.2%.

Rubber Gloves

Hand Dermatitis Prevention

A much more frequent cause of hand eczema (hand dermatitis) is job-related. Repeated exposure to irritants such as soaps, detergents, solvents, lubricants, fiberglass dust, food products, metals, and plastics can cause itchy, dry, scaly patches of skin that crack and flake. Those trades and professions most prone include bricklaying, mechanical industry, health care, food service / processing and agriculture.

For workers employed in these, and similar, fields, rubber gloves offer significant protection against hand eczema, providing an impenetrable barrier between the skin and the irritant. Latex gloves are, perhaps, the most suitable, renowned for their elasticity and tensile strength, as well being bio-degradable and friendlier to the environment.

TK Bosaeng Glove has been manufacturing industrial and domestic natural rubber gloves for over 30 years and has developed a wide range of products to suit the varying needs of a wide range of industries. If you would like to know more about our products and practices, please visit our website at www.tkbosaeng.com or feel free to contact us at: sales@tkbosaeng.com