Recognizing latex allergies is an important patient safety precaution.
During the past 30 years, latex allergy has been recognized as a significant problem for both specific patient and provider populations. The incidence of latex allergy in the general population has been estimated to be between 1 and 6 percent. Some adolescents experience incidences as high as 73 percent (notably those individuals with spina bifida and related pathologies). Healthcare workers maintain an incidence of allergic response that ranges from 8 to 17 percent. Adults with spinal cord trauma, neurogenic bladder, or documented history of unexplained intraoperative anaphylaxis can also be affected by frequent exposure to latex supplies.1
Significant facts related to latex allergy arise in the obstetric and gynecologic specialty:2
Other at-risk populations with repeated exposure to latex gloves include lifeguards, emergency responders, law enforcement professionals, and cosmetologists. In addition, glove powder has been shown to aerosolize latex proteins and increases the risks of a reaction in latex-sensitized patients or staff. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced a ban of the use of powdered gloves in surgery, powdered patient examination gloves, and absorbable powder used on surgical gloves. The ban was issued after an investigation determined that the powdered products present an “unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury and that the risk cannot be corrected or eliminated by labeling or a change in labeling.”3
Although most gynecologists and obstetricians are familiar with latex allergies, the infrequency of a severe reaction during a procedure can cause inadequate precautionary measures. Implement the following risk management strategies to reduce latex-related risks.
For a free brochure on latex allergy, contact the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) by calling toll-free (800) 842-7777. Additional information is available on the ACAAI website at http://acaai.org/allergies/types/skin-allergies/latex-allergy.
The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider in light of all circumstances prevailing in the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.