Latex is a naturally occurring compound, derived from tree sap, and used to make rubber products. The first allergic reaction to latex was reported in 1979. Since that time, it has become widely recognized that several populations are at increased risk of latex allergy. These groups include health care workers (who become sensitized by way of exposure to numerous latex containing materials) and children with spina bifida and some urologic anomalies.
Reactions to latex can range from IgE mediated contact dermatitis to full anaphylactic reactions. There is no data to support pretreatment with steroids and histamine blockers to help prevent allergic reactions in latex sensitive individuals. The current standard of care in latex sensitive patients is prevention of exposure to latex, especially in patients at risk. Products that commonly contain latex include surgical gloves, foley catheter balloons, and Swan Ganz catheter balloons. Many of these products are available in latex-free forms. Clinicians should also be prepared to treat life-threatening anaphylactic reactions should they occur. Anaphylaxis to latex should be treated like anaphylaxis to any other agent. Obviously, if anaphylaxis to latex is suspected, any and all latex products should be removed from the patient as quickly as possible.
An additional interesting point regarding latex allergies is the existence of cross reactive antibodies in patients with allergies to kiwis, bananas, and avocados. There have been multiple reports of latex reactions in such patients.
- M J Dakin, S M YentisLatex allergy: a strategy for management. Anaesthesia: 1998, 53(8);774-81