Latex allergies: a review of recognition, evaluation, management, prevention, education, and alternative product use

J Athl Train. 2003 Apr;38(2):133-40.


Objectives: To provide information about latex allergies; to determine how to recognize, evaluate, and manage emergencies related to latex allergies; and how to identify those at risk for latex allergies. Additionally, ways to prevent latex exposure, to educate health care workers and athletes about latex allergy, and to provide safe alternatives to latex are investigated.

Data sources: We searched MEDLINE and SPORT Discus for the years 1998-2002 using the key words latex, allergies, rubber, anaphylaxis, gloves, cross-reaction, IgE (immunoglobulin G) proteins, and radioallergosorbent test (RAST).

Background: Latex, a sap from the rubber tree, is found in many products used in everyday life. Latex is composed of compounds that may cause an allergic reaction, whose severity can range from irritant dermatitis to type IV dermatitis to type I systemic reaction. Recognition of the signs and symptoms associated with these reactions by the health care professional may help to prevent a more severe reaction from occurring. Reactions can be complicated by contact with other substances, thus causing a cross-reaction. Some individuals are more at risk of latex allergies due to repetitive exposure to latex through their career paths, multiple surgeries, other allergies, or respiratory conditions. Management of an acute reaction involves removal of the irritant, cleansing of the affected area, monitoring vital signs for changes, and seeking additional medical assistance as warranted.

Recommendations: Those at risk may be identified through a thorough medical history and allergy testing. Prevention techniques and guidelines are examined, with an emphasis on education at multiple levels. Product information for nonlatex equipment and supplies for the athletic training room is offered, with additional resource information provided.