04/13/2004

Preventing Natural Rubber Latex Allergy

Natural rubber latex provides effective protection against many diseases, but
some workers who use latex gloves may develop allergic reactions such as
rashes, asthma and rarely, shock. Health care workers are at particular risk
for latex allergy, but other workers such as hairdressers, food service workers
and those in industries that manufacture latex products may also be
susceptible.

The US Montana Department of Labor & Industry offers the following tips on
preventing workers from developing an allergy to natural latex.

Primary prevention involves reducing potential development of allergy by
reducing unnecessary exposure to latex proteins for all workers. For example,
food service workers or gardeners do not need to use natural rubber latex
gloves for food handling or gardening. Gloves made of synthetic latex have been
cleared for marketing as medical gloves by the Food and Drug Administration and
can be used effectively for barrier protection against bloodborne pathogens.


Some general guidelines for reducing NRL exposure are listed below:

  • Use nonlatex gloves for activities that are not likely to involve
    contact with infectious materials.

  • Use powder-free latex gloves with reduced protein content.

  • When wearing latex gloves, do not use oil-based hand creams or lotions
    (which can cause glove deterioration).

  • After removing latex gloves, wash hands with a mild soap and dry thoroughly.

  • Practice good housekeeping: Frequently clean areas and equipment
    contaminated with latex-containing dust with vacuum filters.

  • Provide workers with education programs and training materials about latex
    allergy.

  • Use approved synthetic latex gloves whenever possible.

  • Periodically screen high-risk workers for latex allergy symptoms. Detecting
    symptoms early and removing symptomatic workers from latex exposure are
    essential for preventing long-term health effects.

  • Evaluate current prevention strategies whenever a worker is diagnosed with
    latex allergy.

Further Information


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