Objectives The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of latex allergy in nurses and to determine occupational risk factors.
Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted in 899 female nurses from three Thai hospitals with information on working conditions, lifestyle, ill-health, and symptoms related to latex use, collected by a self-reported questionnaire. Pulmonary function was determined by spirometry. Latex sensitisation was determined by using a solid-phase enzyme-labelled fluoroenzymeimmunoassay for anti-latex IgE antibodies. Inhalable aerosol levels were measured in different wards using stationary air sampling and latex aeroallergen levels in these samples were measured using a Pharmacia CAP competitive-inhibition immunoassay.
Results Health effects-related to latex glove use were reported by 17.5% (157/899) of the nurses with the majority reporting dermal symptoms (84.1%, 132/157) and to a lesser extent respiratory symptoms (27.4%, 43/157), respectively. The prevalence of latex sensitisation was 4.4% (16/363). Occupational factors associated with dermal symptoms included working in operating theatres (OR 2.5, 95% CI 1.5 - 4.2]), wearing > 15 pairs of latex gloves per day (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.3 - 3.4), and washing hands with chlorhexidine (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.2 - 3.5). Latex sensitisation was associated with respiratory symptoms (OR 3.8, 95% CI 1.0 - 14.5) and with decreased FEF25–75% predicted (β -12.22, 95% CI -23.6 to -0.88). The concentration of NRL aeroallergens in hospital workplaces ranged from 6.9 to 12.4 ng/m3.
Conclusions Use of powdered latex gloves was associated with increasing risk of developing glove-related symptoms, particularly dermal symptoms in nurses. Operating theatre nurses were a high risk group for developing glove-related dermal symptoms. Use of alternative gloves should be considered in Thai-hospitals, while also the risk associated with the use of chlorhexidine containing sanitisers should be examined further.
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