Objective: To determine the prevalence of allergy to natural rubber latex and potential crossreacting foods in operating room nurses.
Method: Two hundred forty-seven operating room nurses completed a latex allergy questionnaire. They were questioned about symptoms of latex reactivity and about other allergies particularly to foods that may crossreact with latex. Informed consent was obtained and skin prick testing was performed with natural rubber latex and five latex extracts representing low (0.08 to 0.25 microgram/mL) and high (18 to 106 micrograms/mL) natural rubber latex protein gloves. Skin prick tests were done with four potentially crossreacting foods (banana, avocado, kiwi, and potato), saline, and histamine controls.
Results: One hundred thirty-five (54.7%) nurses described allergic symptoms they attributed to latex exposure. Of these 12 (4.9%) tested positive to latex extracts alone, 12 (4.9%) tested positive to food extracts alone, and 5 (2.0%) tested positive to both latex and crossreactive foods. Three of the 17 (17.6%) nurses testing positive to latex gave no history of reactivity to latex. Indirect latex ELISA was done on the serum of skin test-positive patients with a 70.6% sensitivity.
Conclusion: Of the nurses tested, 6.9% had positive skin prick tests to latex extracts; 17.6% of these were asymptomatic and 29.4% had associated food positive skin prick tests.