Latex allergies – different types, main drivers and prevention
Many users, particularly in the healthcare sector, are affected by skin irritations and allergies. According to international estimates, less than one percent of the overall population suffers from type I allergies induced by latex products.
As the largest European manufacturer of natural rubber latex gloves, it is therefore all the more important for us to continuously improve the skin compatibility of our gloves. We carry out intensive research and development on this topic and are constantly working on improved technologies and materials. Among other things, we are reducing glove powder and allergens such as latex proteins and residual chemicals in our products.
With more than 100 years of expertise in glove-manufacturing, we refrain from using the accelerator thiuram, which is responsible for about 80 per cent of type IV allergies.
Let us have a look at latex allergies and other related topics.
What is a latex allergy?
Latex proteins in natural rubber latex or accelerators used in certain production processes can trigger different types of allergies. In general, over-sensitive reactions can be split into four types. However, only types I and IV are relevant for allergies related to the usage of gloves.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis: Type-IV
This type of reaction is a Type-IV delayed immunological reaction and is not life threatening. However, it provokes itchiness and discomfort through blisters and redness, and later, as part of the healing process, progresses to dryness and scaling. This can be qualified as a sensitisation to residual chemicals (e.g. accelerators) used in the production of conventional rubber products.
Immediate Allergic Reaction: Type-I
This type is more serious as it causes immediate allergic reactions after contact with latex-products. Such a reaction is triggered by the protein content of natural rubber latex and shows a wide range of clinical symptoms, including angioedema, swelling, cough, asthma, and anaphylactic reactions.
How does a latex allergy occur?
Natural rubber latex is composed of spherical polyisoprene droplets coated with a layer of water-soluble proteins. Natural rubber is a processed plant product of the rubber tree and contains variable amounts of water-soluble proteins that can upset the human immune system and trigger a latex allergy.
Latex allergies are also strongly associated with food allergies. Find out more about the linkage between latex allergies and food allergies in the leaflet 'Sempermed Informs: Latex allergy in children' below.
How can latex allergies be prevented?
Preventing latex allergies in the health care system can be quite easy. Most medical devices already are latex-free due to the prevalence of latex allergies. Yet, healthcare professionals wearing surgical gloves have always had the choice between latex or latex-free gloves, irrespective of the potential impact on their patient.
How Sempermed contributes to minimising the risk of allergic reactions to latex
In recent years, both the latex protein content and the chemical residues have been reduced significantly through new methods in glove production. Moreover, new vulcanisation accelerators have been developed that are significantly more tolerable and do not have any residues that are easily released.
Reducing undesirable substances to a minimum
Chemicals and proteins often lead to skin sensitisation of the glove wearer. We do not use any thiurams in the manufacturing of Sempermed gloves as they have been found to be the cause of type IV allergies in 80% of cases. We have also reduced the latex protein content of our latex gloves to a minimum through the introduction of additional stages within the production. This aims to protect your skin.
Sempermed offers accelerator-, latex- and powder-free glove alternatives, for example, our Green Glove or other skin-friendly alternatives.
Latex allergies in children
Did you know that total latex avoidance in early years can significantly reduce the incidences of Type-I and Type-IV allergic reactions in later life? With the availability of so many alternatives to latex, isn’t it time to completely avoid latex exposure in children’s hospitals and women’s maternity wards?