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Latex Allergies Overview of hazards and safety measures May, 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Latex Allergies Overview of hazards and safety measures May, 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 Latex Allergies Overview of hazards and safety measures May, 2011

2 This overview will cover: Composition of latex Products containing latex Latex in the workplace Types of Reactions to Latex Routes of exposure Who is at risk? Medical management Conclusions Recommendations for employers & workers Sources of non-latex products Latex Allergies

3 Composition of Latex Latex products are manufactured from a milky fluid derived from the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. Several chemicals are added to this fluid during the processing and manufacture of commercial latex. Hevea brasiliensis

4 Composition of Latex Sometimes known as “natural rubber”. Some proteins in latex can cause a range of mild to severe allergic reactions. The chemicals added during processing may also cause skin rashes. Several types of synthetic rubber are also referred to as "latex," but these do not release the proteins that cause allergic reactions. Rubber Tree Plantation

5 Products Containing Latex A wide variety of products contain latex: medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and numerous household objects (but not “latex” paint.) Most people who encounter latex products only through general use have no health problems from the use of these products. Workers who repeatedly use latex products are the focus of this overview.

6 Examples of products that may contain latex: Emergency Equipment Blood pressure cuffs Stethoscopes Disposable gloves Oral and nasal airways Endotracheal tubes Tourniquets Intravenous tubing Syringes Electrode pads Hospital Supplies Anesthesia masks Catheters Wound drains Injection ports Rubber tops of multi- dose vials Dental dams Personal Protective Equipment Gloves Surgical masks Goggles Respirators Rubber aprons Products Containing Latex Some of the listed products are available in latex-free forms.

7 Examples of products that may contain latex: Household Goods Automobile tires Motorcycle and bicycle handgrips Carpeting Swimming goggles Racquet handles Shoe soles Expandable fabric (waistbands) Dishwashing gloves Hot water bottles Condoms Diaphragms Balloons Pacifiers Baby bottle nipples Office Supplies Rubber bands Erasers More Products Containing Latex Some of the listed products are available in latex-free forms.

8 Latex in the Workplace Workers in the health care industry are at risk for developing latex allergy because they use latex gloves frequently. Some examples are: physicians nurses dentists Technicians Also at risk are workers with less frequent glove use and workers in industries that manufacture latex products. Some examples are: hairdressers housekeepers food service workers

9 Types of Reactions to Latex Three types of reactions can occur in persons using latex products: Irritant contact dermatitis Allergic contact dermatitis (delayed hypersensitivity) Latex allergy Source: International Academy of Cosmetic Dermatology

10 Types of Reactions to Latex (continued) Irritant contact dermatitis: Is the most common reaction Is development of dry, itchy, irritated areas on the skin, usually the hands. Caused by skin irritation from using gloves and possibly by exposure to other workplace products and chemicals. Can also result from repeated hand washing and drying, incomplete hand drying, use of cleaners and sanitizers, and exposure to powders added to the gloves. It is not a true allergy.

11 Sometimes called chemical sensitivity dermatitis. Results from exposure to chemicals added to latex during harvesting, processing, or manufacturing. These chemicals can cause skin reactions similar to those caused by poison ivy. As with poison ivy: o Rash usually begins 24 to 48 hours after contact o May progress to oozing skin blisters o May spread away from the area of skin touched by the latex. Allergic contact dermatitis (delayed hypersensitivity) Types of Reactions to Latex (Continued)

12 Latex allergy (immediate hypersensitivity) Can be a more serious reaction to latex than irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis Certain proteins in latex may cause sensitization (positive blood or skin test, with or without symptoms). The amount of exposure needed to cause sensitization or symptoms is not known Exposures at even very low levels can trigger allergic reactions in some sensitized individuals. Up to 4 % of U. S. population have allergy to latex. Types of Reactions to Latex (continued)

13 Latex allergy - immediate hypersensitivity Reactions usually begin within minutes of exposure to latex, but can occur hours later Reactions can produce various symptoms: o Mild reactions to latex involve skin redness, hives, or itching. o More severe reactions may involve respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, and asthma (difficult breathing, coughing spells, and wheezing). o Rarely, shock may occur; but a life-threatening reaction is seldom the first sign of latex allergy. Such reactions are similar to those seen in some allergic persons after a bee sting. Types of Reactions to Latex (continued)

14 Effects of Exposure to Latex The amount of latex exposure needed to produce sensitization or an allergic reaction is unknown. When exposures to latex are reduced, sensitization and symptoms tend to decrease. Wearing latex gloves when you have hand dermatitis may increase skin exposure and the risk of developing latex allergy. A skin rash may be the first sign that a worker has become allergic to latex and more serious reactions may occur if the worker continues to be exposed.

15 Powdered Latex gloves The proteins responsible for latex allergies have been shown to fasten to powder that is used on some latex gloves. When powdered gloves are worn, more latex protein reaches the skin. When gloves are changed, latex protein/powder particles get into the air, where they can be inhaled and contact body membranes.

16 Who is at Greatest Risk for Developing Latex Allergy? Workers with ongoing latex exposure are at risk for developing latex allergy: Hospital housekeeping personnel Physicians Ambulance attendants Nurses Funeral home workers Aides Fire fighters Dentists Painters Dental hygienists Gardeners Operating room employees Food service workers Laboratory technicians Law enforcement personnel Workers in factories where latex products are manufactured or used

17 Who is at Greatest Risk for Developing Latex Allergy? People who have multiple allergic conditions (Atopic individuals ) People with spina bifida (up to 68%) People with allergies to certain foods such as: AvocadoPapaya Bananas Potatoes Chestnuts Tomatoes Kiwi fruit

18 Diagnosing Latex Allergy Latex allergy should be suspected in anyone who develops certain symptoms after latex exposure. These include: Nasal, eye or sinus irritation Hives Shortness of breath Coughing Wheezing Unexplained shock Any exposed worker who experiences these symptoms should be evaluated by a physician, because further exposure could result in a serious allergic reaction.

19 Diagnostic tools for physicians: Complete medical history Physical examination Possible tests. o Blood tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are available to detect latex antibodies. o Standardized glove-use test or skin tests that involve scratching or pricking the skin through a drop of liquid containing latex proteins. A positive reaction is shown by itching, swelling or redness at the test site. Diagnosing Allergies

20 Testing is also available to diagnose allergic contact dermatitis. o In this FDA-approved test, a special patch containing latex additives is applied to the skin and checked over several days. o A positive reaction is shown by itching, redness, swelling, or blistering where the patch covered the skin. Occasionally, tests may fail to confirm a worker who has a true allergy to latex, or tests may suggest latex allergy in a worker with no clinical symptoms. Therefore, test results must be evaluated by a knowledgeable physician. Diagnosing Latex Allergy (Continued) OSHA

21 Once a worker becomes allergic to latex, special precautions are needed to prevent exposures during: o work o medical care o dental care Complete latex avoidance is the most effective approach but can be difficult. Certain medications may reduce the allergy symptoms. Many facilities maintain latex-safe areas for affected patients and workers. Treatment of Latex Allergies

22 Recommendations for Employers Provide workers with non-latex gloves to use when there is little potential for contact with infectious materials (for example, in the food service industry). Appropriate barrier protection is necessary when handling infectious materials. If latex gloves are chosen, provide reduced protein, powder-free gloves to protect workers from infectious materials.

23 Ensure that workers use good housekeeping practices to remove latex-containing dust from the workplace: o Identify areas contaminated with latex dust for frequent cleaning (upholstery, carpets, ventilation ducts, and plenums). o Make sure that workers change ventilation filters and vacuum bags frequently in latex- contaminated areas. Provide workers with education programs and training materials about latex allergy. Recommendations for Employers (continued)

24 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.

25 Recommendations for Workers Workers should take the following steps to protect themselves from latex exposure and allergy in the workplace: Use non-latex gloves for activities that are not likely to involve contact with infectious materials (food preparation, routine housekeeping, maintenance, etc.). Appropriate barrier protection is necessary when handling infectious materials. If you choose latex gloves, use powder-free gloves with reduced protein content: o Such gloves reduce exposures to latex protein and thus reduce the risk of latex allergy (though symptoms may still occur in some workers). o So-called hypoallergenic latex gloves do not reduce the risk of latex allergy. However, they may reduce reactions to chemical additives in the latex (allergic contact dermatitis).

26 Recommendations for Workers (continued) Use appropriate work practices to reduce the chance of reactions to latex: When wearing latex gloves, do not use oil-based hand creams or lotions (which can cause glove deterioration) unless they have been shown to reduce latex-related problems and maintain glove barrier protection. After removing latex gloves, wash hands with a mild soap and dry thoroughly. Use good housekeeping practices to remove latex-containing dust from the workplace: o Frequently clean areas contaminated with latex dust (upholstery, carpets, ventilation ducts, and plenums). o Frequently change ventilation filters and vacuum bags used in latex-contaminated areas.

27 Recommendations for Workers (continued) Take advantage of all latex allergy education and training provided by your employer: Become familiar with procedures for preventing latex allergy. Learn to recognize the symptoms of latex allergy: o skin rashes o hives o flushing o itching o nasal, eye, or sinus symptoms o asthma o shock

28 Recommendations for Workers (continued) If you develop symptoms of latex allergy, avoid direct contact with latex gloves and other latex-containing products until you can see a physician experienced in treating latex allergy. If you have latex allergy, consult your physician regarding the following precautions: o Avoid contact with latex gloves and other latex-containing products. o Avoid areas where you might inhale the powder from latex gloves worn by other workers. o Tell your employer and your health care providers (physicians, nurses, dentists, etc.) that you have latex allergy. o Wear a medical alert bracelet. Carefully follow your physician's instructions for dealing with allergic reactions to latex.

29 Additional Resources American Latex Allergy Association OSHA - Latex Allergy Page NIOSH Latex Allergy Prevention Guide NIOSH Latex Allergy Hazard Alert


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