Work gloves are necessary in many occupations to protect hands from hazardous materials. Latex varieties are well suited for many different industries and settings. But for some workers, repeated exposure to latex can cause allergic reactions. The more you are exposed to latex, the higher your chances are of developing a latex allergy. According to the NIOSH, latex allergies from occupational exposure are on the rise, especially in health care workers.
The two most common forms of exposure to latex are through skin contact (wearing gloves) and inhalation. Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking “I don’t sniff rubber gloves. I don’t need to worry about inhalation”. Wrong! Snapping on or removing gloves releases latex particles into the air, which can end up in your lungs.
Types of Reactions:
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of allergic reaction. Irritant Contact Dermatitis is the least serious reaction, resulting in minor irritations such as redness and itching where skin has come into contact with latex. Allergic Contact Dermatitis is a delayed reaction to the chemicals added to latex during processing, and has the same symptoms as Irritant Contact Dermatitis. Latex Hypersensitivity is the rarest and most dangerous reaction to latex, and results from inhalation of latex particles. Symptoms can range from mild to serious. A mild reaction will feel like hayfever, with sneezing, runny nose, and itchy watery eyes. More severe reactions can include difficulty breathing, chest pain, or rapid heart rate. In some cases, anaphylactic shock and death are possible without proper treatment.
Studies show that using Nitrile Gloves (instead of latex gloves) is most beneficial for preventing latex allergies. However, latex gloves are usually stronger and more puncture resistant. If you must wear latex gloves, try Powder-Free Latex Gloves to reduce the amount of latex particles in the air.