Although food allergens generally receive more publicity, there are a great number of persons who suffer from sensitivity to a very common material in latex. According to Magid Glove, proteins found in the rubber can cause reactions at contact sites, as well as adhering to powders sometimes used to lubricate certain products, such as gloves. If particles of powder become airborne and are inhaled, sufferers can also experience respiratory symptoms as well, although they are typically moderate in severity.
Who Is at Risk?
It is estimated that about 4 percent of allergy sufferers point to latex as their primary aggravator. Sensitivity can develop well into adulthood, and often impacts individuals who come into regular contact with the material in the course of their work. In particular, healthcare professionals, sanitation workers, and those working in food service or personal beauty industries are at greater risk. Roughly 10 percent of healthcare workers are thought to suffer from latex allergies.
Symptoms can vary, both in onset time and severity. Contact with skin typically results in reactions such as itching, redness, or hives. Airborne particles can lead to everything from sneezing and runny nose to sore throat or asthmatic symptoms. Most reactions occur within moments of exposure, although some may occur even hours later.
What Can Be Done?
While often difficult to manage, a latex allergy need not require a career change. By taking certain precautions, exposure can be virtually eliminated in most environments, making it possible for sufferers to continue working in their respective chosen fields. Employers are required to make medical accommodations, particularly if overexposure in the workplace is thought to have contributed to the illness.
Outside of work, persons with latex sensitivity should first and foremost take care to avoid products which contain the material. A very partial list of common items includes:
- New rugs or carpeting
- Tape and adhesive products
- Car tires
- Rubber floor panels (used for fitness, children’s playgrounds, etc.)
- Various rubber toys and balloons
Food prepared by persons wearing latex gloves can carry particles that will affect allergy sufferers, so it can be important to inquire about a restaurant’s food handling practices before eating out. Likewise, be careful with certain pre-packaged foods, especially salads or sandwiches, which may have come into contact with latex during preparation. Even vegetables like mushrooms are often picked by workers wearing gloves made of latex, meaning diligence is necessary to minimize exposure.
Living with a latex sensitivity isn’t always easy, but thankfully, most people’s symptoms are more along the lines of irritations and discomfort, and are very rarely serious or life-threatening. Although there is not yet a proven medication to lessen sensitivity, advancements are always being made in the interest of accommodating persons with allergies, making it easier for sufferers to go on about their lives much the same as anyone else.