Background: Respiratory symptoms of natural rubber latex (NRL) allergy in health care workers (HCWs) have been reported in rooms with a detectable allergen load. Preventive measures have been proposed to reduce the risk of NRL sensitization.
Objectives: Eliminating powdered NRL gloves from the workplace and giving NRL-free material to sensitized workers has been among proposed preventive measures. To appraise the success of such procedures among HCWs, a prospective study was carried out.
Methods: Sensitization of HCWs to NRL was determined by skin prick tests and measurements of specific IgE antibodies. NRL allergen concentrations in room air were measured before and after substitution of powdered NRL gloves with powder-free or synthetic gloves in different departments of a hospital and determined by a competitive inhibition immunoassay.
Results: The prevalence of HCWs with positive skin prick test responses and NRL-specific IgE-positive HCWs was 8% (n = 7) among the 90 examined staff members before the intervention started. All 7 reported glove-related allergic symptoms. Six of 7 sensitized subjects had a significant decrease of latex-specific IgE antibody concentrations during follow-up examinations in April and September 1997 (P <.003). Within 24 hours after substitution took place, NRL aeroallergen levels (up to 49.9 ng/m3) fell below the detection limit in areas with synthetic gloves or powder-free NRL gloves alike. Use of asthma medication and antiallergic drugs could be discontinued by 2 HCWs with NRL-related respiratory tract symptoms.
Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that elimination of powdered NRL gloves is a useful device in reducing aerogen NRL allergen loads below the detection limit and permitting sensitized or allergic personnel to remain on the job.