Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Latex allergy

Do you know anyone who has a latex allergy? Someone with a latex allergy can have a very difficult time with some activities that the rest of us take for granted. And worse, they can be exposed to life-threatening situations whenever they are hospitalized, visit an emergency room, or go for an annual physical exam.

This type of allergy isn’t common; it’s estimated to affect about 1% of the North American population, but it does seem to be coming more common. Latex is all around us. It’s made from fluid that comes from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). Latex is found in every day products such as:

• Dishwashing gloves
• Carpeting
• Waistbands
• Balloons
• Rubber toys
• Hot water bottles
• Baby bottle nipples
• Disposable diapers
• Sanitary pads
• Rubber bands
• Erasers
• Condoms
• Diaphragms
• Swim goggles
• Racket handles
• Motorcycle and bicycle handgrips

And for those who are in the healthcare field or who are ill and must be cared for, latex is also found in:

• Blood pressure cuffs
• Stethoscopes
Intravenous tubing
• Syringes
• Respirators
• Electrode pads
• Surgical masks

(these lists were taken from Latex Allergy)

People who are most at risk of developing a latex allergy seem to fall into four distinct groups, two of which are made up of people who are exposed to latex products frequently and over long periods of time:

Children with spina bifida, health care workers (including dental), people who have allergies to foods such as avocado, kiwi, and passion fruit (they contain some of the same allergens as latex), and people with a family history of allergies.

Signs and symptoms can range from mild to life threatening anaphylactic shock.

Since latex is just about everywhere, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to have an allergy to it. I once looked after a patient with a latex allergy and it was very hard to remember to ensure that no latex products, including gloves that we used for patient care, got into his room. He was so sensitive to it that he would react if there was a box of latex gloves in his room.

As with most allergies, the only way a latex allergy can be managed is by avoiding contact or inhalation of latex; something that can’t be easy in our society. And, very importantly, if you have a latex allergy, it’s vital that you wear a medic alert bracelet. In an emergency situation, there is latex everywhere as the healthcare workers do their work. A medic alert bracelet may be the only way they can know that you have this allergy.

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1 comment:

Dawn said...

I have a slight allergy to bandaides (maybe you call them plasters in your part of the world). I'm not sure what they're made of but if I have to wear one for several days then my skin begins to react.