Background: Natural rubber latex allergy can cause skin and respiratory symptoms The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence and incidence of latex related symptoms and sensitisation among a large group of healthcare workers in Trieste hospitals, followed for three years before and after the introduction of powder-free gloves with low latex release.
Methods: In the years 1997–99 the authors evaluated 1040 healthcare workers exposed to latex allergen for latex related symptoms and sensitisation by means of a questionnaire, a medical examination, skin prick tests, and IgE specific antibody assay. The second evaluation was carried out in the years 2000–02, subsequent to the changeover to a powder-free environment.
Results: Glove related symptoms were seen in 21.8% of the nurses (227), mostly consisting of mild dermatitis: 38 (3.6%) complaining of contact urticaria and 24 (2.3%) of asthma and/or rhinitis. These symptoms were significantly related to skin prick tests positive to latex (OR = 9.70; 95% CI 5.5 to 17) and to personal atopy (OR = 2.29; 95% CI 1.6 to 3.2). Follow up was completed in 960 subjects (92.3%): 19 new subjects (2.4%) complained of itching erythema when using gloves, but none was prick positive to latex. Symptoms significantly improved and in most cases disappeared (p<0.0001).
Conclusions: Simple measures such as the avoidance of unnecessary glove use, the use of non-powdered latex gloves by all workers, and use of non-latex gloves by sensitised subjects can stop the progression of latex symptoms and can avoid new cases of sensitisation.
- occupational exposure
- follow up
- healthcare workers
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This study was partially presented at the Congresso Nazionale di Medicina del Lavoro e Igiene Industriale held in Taormina (Italy) 3–17 September 2002 and published in abstract form in Giornale Italiano Medicina del Lavoro e Ergonomia2002;:.