Latex Allergy (Nursing)

In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan.


Latex comes from a sap found in rubber trees, Hevea brasiliensis, which is used to make many products we use today. Latex is ubiquitous in health care, making up much of the equipment used, including catheters, balloons, and most commonly, gloves. There have been hundreds of allergens identified from natural rubber latex (NRL) with 15 official ones given numbers (Hev b1 to Hev b15). The natural proteins in rubber are associated with both asymptomatic sensitization and type I IgE-mediated hypersensitivity. During latex processing, chemical antioxidants are added, which can cause type IV hypersensitivity reactions as well. Latex allergy is among the most common causes of anaphylaxis in the operating room and has increased in prevalence with the increased use of latex gloves to prevent transmittable infections starting in the 1980s. A significant increase in the production of latex gloves has resulted in a widespread occurrence of allergies to latex. Latex allergy has also become a well-known problem among healthcare workers while wearing gloves or inhaling aerosolized particles.

There have been varying reports of the prevalence of latex allergy among the general population. Latex allergy affects 1 to 2 percent of the population, and one study showed that latex sensitization is more likely in healthcare workers exposed to latex compared to the general population. Clinical manifestation, however, was approximately the same in both healthcare workers and the general population. In developing countries, there are more cases of latex allergy, as more latex products are in use. Latex results in the most common cause of contact urticaria in occupational health as well as the second most common cause of intraoperative anaphylaxis, second to muscle relaxants.

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