In recent years, there has been a rise in the incidence of health care workers and patients developing allergic reactions to latex. The scientific community has linked the source of these reactions in the human immune response system to proteins in naturally occurring latex.
The incidence of latex allergy, which now approaches twenty-five percent for health care workers (physicians, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants) and two percent of non-health care workers, increased dramatically since the 1980's. This happened because there was a dramatic increase in the use of latex gloves to protect workers and patients from the AIDS and Hepatitis virus.
Many don't realize, but latex can be found in many common household items, including baby bottle nipples, balloons, some bandages, condoms, diaphragms, elastics in garments and socks, erasers, hoses, makeup, rubber bands, stretch textiles, and many toys.
People who already have allergic conditions such as hay fever, reactions to animal dander and eczema, are more susceptible to additional allergies such as those involving latex.
Symptoms of latex allergy include:
The most serious result of latex allergy is anaphylactic shock, which mimics the reaction that people who are allergic to bee stings and penicillin receive.
- Dry skin
- Tingling sensations
- Low blood pressure
- Respiratory arrest
People who are continually exposed to latex, have spina bifida, or have had multiple surgeries are at a higher risk of developing an allergy to latex.
Some people contract latex allergy if they are constantly exposed to the airborne particles released from the powders inside the gloves. The powder contains latex protein (the allergen) and can remain suspended in the air for up to twelve hours. If you suspect that you are allergic to latex, inform your dentist before treatment. Gloves made from other materials are available. If you are not aware that you have the allergy (which many people are not) and you suffer symptoms following a dental procedure or from contact with any latex products, seek treatment immediately, and inform your dentist.