The Itchy Facts About Latex Allergies
It’s a rare day in the healthcare field if your employees don’t come in contact with latex — we’re talking about you, latex gloves. Latex contains natural proteins that can cause sensitivities or allergies in some people, especially those in medical settings who are frequently exposed to latex product. That’s why it’s important to know what the risks are and what precautions to take.
The amount of latex exposure needed to cause an allergic reaction is unknown, but increased exposure to latex does increase your risk of developing symptoms. Symptoms can begin within minutes or hours of exposure and vary in severity:
- Mild reactions to latex involve skin redness, rash, hives or itching.
- More severe reactions may involve respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throat and asthma (difficult breathing, coughing spells and wheezing).
- Rarely, shock may occur; however, a life-threatening reaction is seldom the first sign of a latex allergy.
Many people don’t have an actual allergy to latex, but instead experience reactions to it. The most common reactions to latex are:
- Irritant contact dermatitis – the development of dry, itchy, irritated areas on the skin, usually the hands. This reaction is caused by irritation from wearing gloves and by exposure to the powders added to them.
- Allergic contact dermatitis, sometimes called chemical sensitivity dermatitis – results from the chemicals added to latex during harvesting, processing or manufacturing. These chemicals can cause a skin rash similar to that of poison ivy.
- Neither irritant contact dermatitis nor chemical sensitivity dermatitis is a true allergy.
Protect Your Employees
If your workforce develops symptoms of a latex allergy, ensure they avoid direct contact with latex gloves and other latex-containing products until they can see a physician experienced in treating latex allergy.
If you have employees with latex allergies, be sure they:
- Avoid contact with latex gloves and products.
- Avoid areas where they might inhale the powder from latex gloves worn by other workers.
- Tell health care providers (physicians, nurses, dentists, etc.) that they have a latex allergy.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet.
Do you have additional questions about keeping your employees safe at work? We have an entire Risk Management Team dedicated to the Senior Living and Healthcare industries. Contact a team member today! And in the meantime, check out our webinar recording on keeping your team safe.
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