Background: Recent studies have reported that the prevalence of latex allergy among volunteer populations of health care workers ranges from 2% to 25%. To date, no epidemiologic study has investigated the prevalence of latex allergy and its relationship to possible risk factors among nurses.
Methods: Registered nurses (n = 741) in a large metropolitan hospital participated in a latex allergy prevalence study. Latex exposure data were obtained through self-administered questionnaires. Blood samples were classified as positive or negative for anti-latex IgE antibodies. Associations between potential risk factors for latex allergy and anti-latex antibodies were assessed.
Results: The participation rate was 90.6% among eligible nurses. Sixty-five samples were positive for a prevalence of 8.9% (95% confidence interval, 6.7 to 10.8). No differences in latex positivity among five nursing specialties were noted. Logistic regression indicated that after adjusting for age and sex, the following factors were significantly associated with latex seropositivity: nonwhite race (odds ratio [OR] = 4.2), reported histories of penicillin allergy (OR = 2.2), pruritic skin (OR = 2.2), conjunctivitis (OR = 3.0), localized urticaria (OR = 1.8), hay fever (OR = 2.1), avocado allergy (OR = 9.9), and ragweed allergy (OR = 3.4).
Conclusions: The prevalence of latex sensitization appeared to be substantial (8.9%) among the nurses studied, and the prevalence did not vary by nursing specialty. The factors associated with latex positivity in the logistic regression model correctly classified 81.3% of the nurses with a sensitivity and specificity of 66.7% and 82.7%, respectively.