Latex Allergy (cont.)
In this Article
What is latex and where is it found?
Latex is a natural product which comes from the light milky fluid that is extracted from the rubber tree. This milky fluid is often modified during the manufacturing process to form a latex mixture. A person can be allergic to the latex or the mixture or both. Latex-containing products are many and varied (see the list below). One of two procedures is employed during the manufacturing of the latex-containing product. One procedure is "dipping," wherein a form is dipped into a vat of latex and after drying, the latex product is washed and then peeled from the form. If the latex product is not washed well, as is the case with rushed production, more "free" latex is present on the surface. This "free" latex is responsible for a great deal of latex allergy. Dipped latex products include gloves, balloons and condoms. A much less allergic latex product is made by molding the latex. Products such as rubber stoppers and erasers are manufactured using this process. The powder of surgical gloves is a significant problem. Latex will easily stick to powder that is commonly used in surgical gloves.
When the glove is placed on or taken off the hand the glove is frequently "snapped." This snapping places the powder, with latex sticking to it, into the air. Inhaled latex can be a serious allergic problem.
Who is at risk?
Some people are born with a genetic predisposition to be allergic to latex. However, repeated exposure to latex is necessary for an allergy to develop. If a person is repeatedly exposed to latex, especially products that are "dipped," the risk of latex allergy substantially increases. Therefore, persons at risk are health care workers exposed to latex products (such as gloves and catheters), people who require frequent surgery or catheter use, and workers in the manufacturing or distribution of latex products. For unknown reasons, people who have surgeries of the spine or urinary tract have a much higher risk of latex allergy for reasons unknown.
There is also an interesting association of unique food allergy among persons allergic to latex. People allergic to latex are frequently allergic to bananas and sometimes other foods like kiwi, papaya, avocados and apricots. This association with food allergy is real, but the cause of the relationship is uncertain.
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