Current statistics suggest that the number of people suffering from latex allergy is increasing. For instance, more than 1,700 instances of the allergy or anaphylactic reaction have been reported to the FDA since 1988. Of these cases, seventeen proved fatal.
Latex allergy can develop at any age or under any circumstances. Symptoms can appear as early as seven to ten days from first contact. Once a sensitivity to latex has developed, a reaction can occur within 24 to 48 hours.
Parents, health care workers, medical personnel, dentists or indeed anyone who is exposed to products containing latex, need to be aware of the possible risks of developing an allergic reaction.
Other professionals such as the police, paramedics and the emergency services, or anyone who needs to treat asthmatics must also understand the dangers of latex.
What is Latex Allergy?
An allergy (also know as an “immediate hypersensitivity reaction”) results when the immune system is sensitized to a foreign protein. The body responds and produces antibodies (IgE), which recognize and bind to the protein. This immune response is responsible for the allergic reaction.
Typically, a latex allergy develops after repeated exposure. Direct physical contact with latex (or any product containing latex) is not needed to trigger an allergic reaction. Severe asthma attacks have resulted merely from inhaling the proteins contained in the powder used to lubricate latex gloves.
Latex Allergy Triggers
Contact with latex can cause an allergic reaction and trigger an asthma attack. Something as simple as snapping on a pair of gloves and sending a shower of powder through the air is sufficient to trigger an asthma attack.
Other common encounters include blowing up a latex balloon or receiving treatment from a dentist or medical practitioner who is wearing latex gloves. Condoms could also be a potential source of exposure.
If a dental assistant, emergency room nurse, police officer or food handler approaches you wearing gloves, you have the right to know what they are made of. Gloves made of other synthetic and non-reactive materials are available. So are non-latex balloons and condoms.
Natural Latex Rubber
Derived from the Hevea brasiliensis tree that grows in Southeast Asia and Africa, natural latex rubber is not to be confused with petroleum-based synthetic rubbers know as butyl. Synthetic products do not normally trigger an allergic reaction in people allergic to latex.