This national guideline summarises evidence and is intended to assist occupational health professionals, managers and other interested parties in providing advice on occupational health interventions and to address the problem of latex allergy from both individual and institutional perspectives. The evidence based guideline is concerned particularly with issues relating to gloves, as these represent the main occupational use of latex.
The guideline is accompanied by summary leaflets for employers, employees and health care professionals.
The use of powder-free, low protein latex gloves as an alternative to powdered latex gloves significantly reduces the incidence of latex allergy and latex-induced asthma, as well as the prevalence of latex-related symptoms. Powdered latex gloves should therefore not be used in the workplace.
- At a national and local level, a policy that encourages switching from powdered latex gloves to powder-free low protein latex gloves is a proven effective method of reducing the incidence of latex allergy.
- Employees with latex allergy, latex sensitivity or latex-induced asthma should use nonlatex gloves.
- In employees who are latex allergic/sensitised, taking latex avoidance measures results in cessation or diminution of symptoms. Markers of sensitisation decrease regardless of whether co-workers continue to use powder-free low protein latex gloves or latex-free gloves.
- In employees with latex-induced asthma or rhinitis, the use of powder-free low protein gloves by their colleagues reduces symptoms and indices of severity in the affected employee to a similar degree as the use of non-latex gloves by colleagues.
Latex allergy: occupational aspects of management
- All but the most severe cases of latex allergy and latex-induced asthma can be managed without the need for redeployment, ill health retirement or termination of employment. Adjustments include careful personal avoidance of latex at work and minor changes in the workplace.
- There is a lack of published primary research comparing occupational interventions for those who are sensitised to latex (without symptoms), with those with clinical latex allergy.
- No reports of new cases of latex allergy arising from non-powdered low protein latex glove use were found.
The evidence does not therefore support a complete ban on the use of latex gloves. Institutions should judge whether their needs would be met better by the use of latex-free or powder-free latex gloves, or use of both in different settings, while taking into account the desirable and undesirable properties of both materials.