Background: Because latex is a common allergen, the rate of latex sensitization may be high in the general population. A major issue would then be to determine whether a systematic preoperative screening in the general population should be recommended.
Objective: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the prevalence of latex sensitization in a sample of the general population and to assess the role of possible risk factors.
Methods: The subjects were 258 people, aged from 20 to 40 yr, visiting a health care centre for a check-up. The protocol included: a questionnaire (occupation, symptoms of atopy, use of latex goods and possible reactions, history of previous surgery), a skin-prick test, and a CAP RAST to latex. Atopy was evaluated by a skin-prick test to common allergens and a Phadiatop test.
Results: Some 6.6% of the study group had either a positive skin test or a positive RAST to latex. These subjects had a four-fold higher prevalence of symptoms when wearing gloves. The rate of latex sensitization was higher by fivefold in subjects with a history of reactions to latex goods and by fourfold in atopic subjects.
Conclusions: Because the rate of latex sensitization is much higher than the anticipated rate of perioperative reactions due to latex allergy, a systematic preoperative screening for latex allergy should not be recommended for adults.