Latex is a natural substance found in numerous plants, particularly a tree, Hevea brasiliensis (Hev b), also known as rubber tree. Latex is transformed into various items using two methods: 90% of latex is coagulated into certain rubber products, for example, tires and rubber-soled shoes, and 10% of latex is processed with chemical products. It is then used in casts and moulds to make diverse products like rubber bands and gloves. Latex sensitivity is a therapeutic term encompassing a range of unfavourably susceptible responses to the proteins present in natural rubber latex. It generally develops after repeated exposure to products containing natural rubber latex. When latex-containing medical devices or supplies interact with the mucous membrane, the membrane may absorb latex proteins. The immune system of some vulnerable people produces antibodies that respond immunologically to these antigenic proteins. As many products contain or are produced using natural rubber, including shoe soles, elastic bands, rubber gloves, condoms, baby bottle nipples and balloons, numerous possible routes of exposure may trigger a response. Roughly half of individuals with latex sensitivity have a background marked by another kind of hypersensitivity. Certain fruits and vegetables, for example, bananas, kiwi, avocado and tomato, can cause hypersensitive symptoms in some latex-sensitive people.
Allergic Responses to Latex and Related Syndromes
Allergic responses to latex range from mild to extremely serious. There are three allergic responses to latex, even though they overlap to a specific degree. These include:
Immediate type latex allergy
Immediate unfavourably susceptible responses (Type 1 or IgE mediated) are the most severe allergic responses to latex. In the general population who are sensitive to normal latex proteins, their immune system discharges the histamine into the tissues when they interact with latex. The manifestations include hives, rhinoconjunctivitis, asthma, or anaphylaxis. Some individuals will develop allergic reactions after wearing a condom, inserting a diaphragm for contraceptive purposes or after visiting the dentist or hairdresser and coming into contact with latex. Reactions can also occur when latex is breathed in, bringing about allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or asthma-like symptoms. Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic response to latex. It commonly happens in susceptible patients where latex protein is being absorbed rapidly via moist surfaces, for example, the mouth, nose, throat, vagina, rectum or internally(during a surgical operation). Severe difficulty in breathing, a drop in blood pressure and anaphylactic shock may occur. Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, is a crisis and can be lethal.
Allergic contact dermatitis
Type IV hypersensitivity is also called allergic contact dermatitis. It is usually because of a provocative response to the chemicals added to rubber during fabrication. Allergic contact dermatitis is irritating but not dangerous. It happens 1-4 days after exposure to latex. The manifestations seem like irritant dermatitis, yet the cause is different. The rash is rough, dry and flaky, sometimes with sobbing wounds.
Irritant contact dermatitis
Natural rubber latex can also cause irritant contact dermatitis, a less severe reaction that does not involve the immune system. Irritant dermatitis is often a beginning stage for the development of latex sensitivity. It results in rough, dry and flaky skin, sometimes with sobbing injuries. It is aggravated by sweating and friction under rubber gloves; however, it can also occur from incessant hand washing with harsh soaps. Even though irritation contact dermatitis isn’t an allergic reaction, absorption of latex through damaged skin increases the risk of developing latex sensitivity with continuous exposure—numerous individuals who consistently wear latex gloves gripe red, dry and aggravated skin. Without sensitivity to latex, these individuals will probably have an irritant skin eruption because of contact with powder from the gloves and frequent hand washing.
People who have latex hypersensitivity additionally may have or build up an allergic response to a few plants and products of these plants, for example, fruits. This is known as the latex-fruit syndrome. Fruits (and seeds) engaged with this syndrome include banana, pineapple, avocado, chestnut, kiwi, fruit, mango, fig, strawberry, papaya, apple, melon, celery, potato, tomato, carrot, and soy. However, not all these natural products contain a form of latex.
Risk Factors for Latex Hypersensitivity
Certain individuals are at increased risk of developing latex hypersensitivity, including health care specialists (for example, doctors, attendants and dental specialists) who are regularly exposed to latex through medicinal equipment like gloves. Other individuals who are at more risk include:
- A deformity in their bone marrow cells
- Children with spina bifida( up to 68% will react)
- A deformed bladder or urinary tract
- Had multiple surgeries, particularly in adolescence
- A urinary catheter, which has a rubber tip
- Allergy, asthma, or dermatitis
- Food hypersensitivities to bananas, avocados, kiwis, or chestnuts
You can get exposed to latex:
- Through the skin, for example, when you wear latex gloves
- Through mucous layers, for example, eyes, mouth, vagina, and rectum
- Through inhalation. Rubber gloves contain a powder that can be breathed in.
- Through the blood. This can happen when some therapeutic gadgets containing rubber are used.
Diagnosing Latex Hypersensitivity: Tests and Procedures
If you tareoversensitive to latex, visit an allergist/immunologist. Your allergist will take a thorough health history; after that, some tests are done to decide whether you have latex hypersensitivity. Skin prick tests or blood tests are the most well-known methods to help affirm the presence of sensitivity to latex proteins or chemical preservatives. Antibodies (Immunoglobulin type E or IgE) against latex are found in the blood of individuals with latex sensitivity. These can be measured in a blood sample by a specific IgE test. The specialist organizes this test. Skin prick testing is another approach to affirm the diagnosis of latex hypersensitivity. A dermatologist or an allergy specialist does this test. It includes puncturing the skin with a small needle (the ‘skin prick’) through a drop of latex solution. If an itchy swelling or ‘wheal’ develops, this usually indicates sensitivity. The test takes 15-20 minutes. There is little possibility of triggering a severe hypersensitive response with skin prick testing, so it should only be done by a fully trained professional with resuscitation equipment. The test isn’t reliable if antihistamines have been taken.
Suppose somebody has symptoms exceptionally suggestive of latex hypersensitivity, yet they have a negative skin prick and antibody tests. In that case, they may require further tests, for example, a latex challenge. Here, a latex product is used (for example, putting on a glove), and the response is assessed. Because earlier tests are negative, there is a very low possibility of a severe reaction here.
Guidelines for Individuals Allergic to Latex
If you are allergic to latex, you should:
- Try to avoid latex in all its forms. Latex substitutes can be used whenever required.
- Avoid latex-containing condoms and diaphragms used for contraception. Use latex-free condoms, which are readily available in stores.
- Wear a medical identification bracelet stating you are oversensitive to latex.
- Tell your doctors not to use any latex-containing product while undergoing any dental treatment, blood tests, or other treatment.
- If it is essential to wear gloves, utilize vinyl or synthetic rubber gloves.
- Avoid takeaway food arranged or served by food handlers wearing latex gloves.
- Consider staying away from occupations where latex is tough to dodge, for example, nursing, dentistry, medication, and veterinary.
Treatment of Latex Sensitivities
The treatment of latex sensitivities includes Mild allergic responses, for example, localized irritation of the skin under gloves, which ought to be managed by removing the glove/latex item, rinsing in cool water and taking an antihistamine tablet. If you have asthma, hold this sensitivity under great control by using inhalers as recommended and carry your inhalers when you go out for use in an emergency. Holding your asthma under great control may reduce the effect of an allergic reaction. In case of a severe hypersensitive response (throat swelling, trouble breathing with a hoarse voice), use the adrenaline auto-injector. It is essential always to carry it. Ensure you know how to use it and tell others (companions, family, instructors, and work associates) how to use it and where to find it in an emergency. Store precisely and check the expiry date.
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