Background: Exposure to latex is known to cause an array of symptoms, including pruritus, dermatitis, erythema, and urticaria. Workers at elevated risk for latex exposure include health care personnel whose repeated patient contact or surgical work require extensive use of latex gloves. This study evaluated the prevalence of latex allergies in atopic and non-atopic intensive care workers and sought to determine the impact of risk factors such as frequency of glove use and hand washing on latex sensitization.
Methods: We evaluated the prevalence of latex sensitivity in 122 intensive care unit (ICU) workers using a questionnaire and skin prick test. Atopy and latex sensitivity were determined by skin prick test using a battery of common inhalant allergens and an extract prepared from the gloves used in the ICU. Frequency of glove use and hand washing were determined by questionnaire.
Results and conclusions: Forty ICU workers (32.8%) were considered atopic by having at least one positive response to the inhalant allergens. Atopic ICU workers were more likely to have positive latex skin test than non-atopic ICU workers (atopic vs. non-atopic workers: p < 0.001, odds ratio = 14.2). Frequency of current glove use or hand washing frequency were not significant predictors of a positive response to latex; however, a positive history of atopic eczema and family history of allergies, as determined by questionnaire were significant predictors of a positive response to latex antigens.