Health care workers may develop allergic reactions as a result of their cumulative exposure to latex gloves and other products containing natural rubber latex. Patients also may have latex sensitivity. (See “Latex allergy protocol” in chapter 8.)
Take the following steps to protect yourself and your patient from allergic reactions to latex:
  • Use nonlatex (for example, vinyl or synthetic) gloves for activities that aren't likely to involve contact with infectious materials (such as food preparation and routine cleaning).
  • Nonlatex gloves can be worn for activities of short duration, even if contact with infectious materials is possible.
  • Use appropriate barrier protection when handling infectious materials. If you choose latex gloves, use powder-free gloves with reduced protein content. Powder in any glove is very drying to skin and may cause problems that may put health care workers at greater risk for exposure to infection if skin is dry and cracked.
  • After wearing and removing gloves, wash your hands with soap and dry them thoroughly.
  • When wearing latex gloves, don't use oil-based hand creams or lotions (which can cause gloves to deteriorate) unless they've been shown to maintain glove barrier protection.
  • Refer to the material safety data sheet for the appropriate glove to wear when handling chemicals.
  • Learn procedures for preventing latex allergy, and learn how to recognize the following symptoms of latex allergy: skin rashes, hives, flushing, itching, asthma, shock, and nasal, eye, or sinus symptoms.
  • If you have (or suspect you have) a latex sensitivity, use nonlatex gloves, avoid contact with latex gloves and other latex-containing products, and consult a physician experienced in treating latex allergy. Report problems to your supervisor and follow your facility's policy for evaluation.
For known latex allergy
  • If you're allergic to latex, consider the following precautions:
  • Avoid contact with latex gloves and other products that contain latex.
  • Avoid areas where you might inhale the powder from latex gloves worn by other workers.
  • Inform your employers and your health care providers (physicians, nurses, dentists, and others).
  • Wear a medical identification bracelet.
  • Follow your physician's instructions for dealing with allergic reactions to latex.
  • Check packages, trays, and kits for items containing latex. Products containing natural rubber latex must be labeled clearly on exterior.