What is Latex?
Natural rubber Latex is the milky sap-like substance that is secreted from plants, most commonly associated with the natural rubber tree (Hevea Braziliensis). This natural material is harvested through a process called tapping, where shallow cuts are made into the bark of the tree, allowing the latex to secrete. Due to coagulation when in contact with the natural air, the latex is preserved with ammonia. When being manufactured into medical gloves, the product is filtered and mixed with essential chemicals to enhance its durability, elasticity and strength.
Advantages of Latex use.
Disposable latex gloves have been the traditional choice of gloves for over 100 years for both surgical and examination purposes. It has been suggested this is due to their dexterity and durability. Latex gloves allow the user to be nimble-fingered, where the user can feel things easily through the glove and there is no restriction of movement that could cause fatigue with long use. Furthermore, latex medical gloves are still seen today as one of the best methods of protection against the transition of body fluid pathogens.
Types of allergy.
Latex can trigger three types of reactions: irritant contact dermatitis (irritation from chemicals; not a true allergy because the immune system isn't involved); allergic contact dermatitis, also known as delayed hypersensitivity or Type IV allergy, the most common type of reaction; and immediate hypersensitivity, a systemic reaction, also called Type I IgE-mediated reaction. Although some people use the term 'latex allergy' when describing irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis, it really refers only to immediate hypersensitivity reactions.
Burt, Sharon (1999) What you need to know about latex allergy
What causes the allergy?
Some people are contact sensitive to the natural proteins that are present in natural rubber latex.
The powder used within manufacture extracts some of the proteins from the latex holding them closer to the skin, making reactions more likely. However, this contact sensitivity can be reduced as part of a leaching process within manufacture, where the powder is washed out of the glove along with some of the proteins.
These products are known as powder free
- Burt, Sharon (1999) What you need to know about latex allergy