Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine prevalence and risk factors for latex hypersensitivity among health care workers (HCW) of an Italian general hospital.
Methods: 1747 HCW of the Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico of Milan were asked to fill in a questionnaire regarding latex-related manifestations (LRM) and personal medical history, and latex-specific IgE were measured by RAST-Cap system.
Results: 672 out of 1747 HCW (38.4%) answered to the questionnaire. LRM were reported by 168 out of 672 HCW (25%). The most common manifestation was hand dermatitis and itching (86.3%), followed by urticaria (3.5%) and respiratory symptoms (2.9%). Among the HCW with LRM, 75 (44.6%) reported a personal history of atopy and 24 (14.3%) reported oral allergy syndrome. most commonly related to kiwi, tomato, peach and melon/watermelon. Latex-specific IgE were found in 62 out of 1747 HCW (3.6%). Among the subjects answering the questionnaire, latex-specific IgE positivity was associated with occurrence of LRM (most commonly allergic contact dermatitis) and a longer professional exposure. The risk of latex IgE sensitisation was four times higher in HCW reporting atopic manifestations than in HCW without atopic disorders. Prevalence of LRM and latex-specific IgE was significantly higher among workers of auxiliary staff than among other job categories. The highest latex-specific IgE levels were found in subjects with severe latex-related symptoms and a personal history of atopy.
Conclusions: A high prevalence of LRM was found among the HCW of an Italian general hospital, although a true latex sensitisation was detected only in a minority of cases. Members of the auxiliary staff, who wear latex gloves for several hours a day, had an increased prevalence of LRM and latex sensitisation. Atopy was a major risk factor for LRM and latex-specific IgE response.