Background: Latex sensitization related to glove use is a complex problem, and glove use policies that restrict exposure to powdered latex gloves alone may not provide adequate safety. This study explored health care workers' (HCWs') latex glove use and reports of related health symptoms 1 year after implementation of the latex glove replacement policy.
Methods: Two cross-sectional surveys. One was a population-based survey of HCWs at the institution (National Surveillance System for Hospital Health Care Workers); the second, a detailed survey of HCWs stratified by exposure to latex gloves (Latex Symptom Survey).
Results: The prevalence of symptoms of dermatitis reported by latex glove users was 40.3% (National Surveillance System for Hospital Health Care Workers) and 50.0% (Latex Symptom Survey). Symptom reports increased as exposure to latex gloves increased (pairs used per day, occupations with more glove use, working in higher exposure areas, more tenure, and more hours of use per day). Aerosol symptoms and urticaria related to latex glove use were reported much less frequently than were rash, chapping, itching, or redness. HCWs, even those with skin symptoms, continued to choose latex gloves in more than 80% of the cases.
Conclusions: Stepwise preplacement evaluation at employee health clinics is recommended to identify and protect employees sensitized to latex. The medical community needs more understanding and education about latex gloves, latex sensitization, and available alternatives.