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ALLERGIES EXPLAINED

There is no cure for latex Type I allergy. While it is a good idea to move to a non-latex environment to eliminate the risk of an adverse response and to minimize sensitivities, there has been an increasing number of cases reported of healthcare workers developing chemical Type IV allergies after making the switch. Understanding the difference between the causes and symptoms of a latex and chemical allergy is important so you can make the right decisions for you and your hospital.

In general, an allergy is a heightened sensitivity to a foreign substance (called an allergen) that causes the body's defense system (the immune system) to overreact when defending itself. Normally, the immune system should only react if a harmful substance, such as bacteria, attacks the body. For people with allergies, their immune systems are working overtime and react even when relatively harmless substances, such as chemicals in gloves for example, are present. The severity of an allergic reaction can vary from mild discomfort to life threatening situations such as an anaphylactic response.

A reaction to allergens may present as an irritation or a sensitization.


Latex Type I Allergy: Immediate Response

A latex Type I response is a reaction to residual proteins found in natural rubber latex. The reaction is immediate, typically occurring 5–30 minutes after initial contact.

Symptoms range in severity, from mild discomfort to life threatening responses

  • Low: Swelling and redness usually local to the site of exposure; non-specific symptoms include itching and burning
  • Medium: Conjunctivitis, rhinitis, bronchial obstruction
  • High: In rare cases, anaphylaxis can occur

RECOMMENDATION: Minimize the risk to sensitization by moving to a 100% chemical-accelerator free glove or a non-latex glove made without chemical accelerators known to cause Type IV allergies.

Chemical Type IV Allergies: Delayed Or Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Chemical Type IV allergies are a reaction to specific allergens such as chemical residues from the glove manufacturing process (commonly known as chemical accelerators). 30% of healthcare workers skin-related reactions are to chemical allergies or sensitivities.(1,2,3) and is the second highest occupational disability reported to OSHA. The response is delayed rather than immediate, usually occurring 6- 48 hours after initial contact, although symptoms can last for up to 4 days.

Symptoms range in severity, from mild discomfort to skin reactions that could significantly impact healthcare workers in the work they do

●    Erythema
●    Swelling
●    Cracking
●    Itching
●    Weeping
●    Dryness of the skin at the site (dermatitis may extend beyond the area of contact)
●    Itchy rash comprising scaling, redness and blisters

RECOMMENDATION: Minimize the risk to sensitization by moving to a 100% chemical-accelerator free glove or a non-latex glove made without chemical accelerators known to cause Type IV allergies.

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REFERENCES
1‌. Geier J, Lessmann H, Mahler V, Pohrt U, Uter W and Schnuch A. Occupational contact allergy caused by rubber gloves – nothing has changed. Contact Dermatitis, 67, 149–156
2. Cao L., Taylor J, Sood A, Murray D, Siegel P. Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Synthetic Rubber Gloves. Changing Trends in Patch Test Reactions to Accelerators. Arch Dermatol, Vol. 146 (NO.9), 2010.
3. Ponten A, Hamnerius N, Bruze M, Hansson C, Persson C, Svedman C, Andersson K and Bergendorff O. Occupational allergic contact dermatitis caused by sterile non-latex protective gloves: clinical investigation and chemical analyses. Contact Dermatitis, 68, 103-110
4. Kiellen MB. 2010. Handeksem av latexfria handskar (Hand eczema from latex-free gloves). Uppdukat. 2:30-31.
5. Rose RF, Lyons P, Horne H, Wilkinson SM. 2009. A review of the materials and allergens in protective gloves. Contact Dermatitis. 61:129-137.
6. Compared to Ansell's general thickness neoprene gloves.
7 - 12. References available upon request