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Tips to Protect You and Your Family from Latex Allergy

(ARA) - One of the most popular gifts given to hospital patients are balloons, but you could be delivering more than a thoughtful gift to your family member or friend, especially if the patient is a child. Since most balloons are made from latex, they, along with common medical supplies like gloves, tubing and tape, may contribute to the concern of latex allergy in medical facilities today.

Children who have had frequent surgery are at risk of developing latex allergy, along with healthcare workers, due to their frequent contact with natural rubber latex materials. Researchers have found that individuals with other allergies, especially to certain foods, may also be at a greater risk for developing the condition.

Because it can be overwhelming to stay on top of all the medical issues threatening your children, here is some useful information intended to help protect your family from latex allergy.

Q: How dangerous is latex allergy?

A: Symptoms ranging from mild to severe may occur during an allergic reaction to natural rubber latex proteins. One may notice skin redness, itching, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, or shortness of breath; but the most severe reaction could send a person into anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis is an extremely rare but severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that could include a dangerous drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing and possible loss of consciousness. Emergency medical attention should be sought at the first sign of an anaphylactic reaction.

Q: Are some children more likely to become latex sensitive than others?

A: Yes. Children who have frequent exposure to latex from numerous medical procedures are at risk. The most at risk include children with spinal bifida, children born with abnormalities of the urinary system and children who have had multiple surgeries. Children who have allergies to certain foods may also develop a latex allergy. Commonly eaten foods that contain some of the same proteins as latex include bananas, avocados, chestnuts, kiwi, passion fruit, papaya, figs, peaches, nectarines, plums, tomatoes and celery.

Q: What products should my child avoid to deter latex sensitivity?

A: To lower the risk of developing an allergy, reduce exposure to latex products. If an item is light brown and can be stretched, it may contain latex. There are items made from vinyl, plastic, synthetic rubbers or silicone that can often be used in place of those that contain latex.

Some products in your home that might contain latex include balloons, rubber balls, pacifiers, diapers, bandages and erasers. Products at a hospital or doctor’s office that may contain latex include medical gloves, catheters, adhesive tape and stethoscopes. Latex proteins can often bind to the powder that is used on some medical gloves to help the glove slide onto the hand. When the glove is removed, the powder can be aerosolized and inhaled, thus causing the patient or healthcare worker to breathe in and absorb latex proteins.

Today, many hospitals are developing policies to create a powder-free or latex-free environment that reduces your child’s exposure to latex. Two popular glove lines are the powder-free latex Biogel surgical gloves and the non-latex Biogel Skinsense line, which is blue in color for easy identification by patients and healthcare workers.

Q: What should I do if I suspect that my child may be allergic to latex?

A: Ask a doctor to test your child for latex allergy. If your child is diagnosed with a latex protein allergy, be sure to inform all of your child’s caregivers (doctors and nurses, dentists, teachers, daycare providers and babysitters, and friends and family members).

Because there is currently no cure for latex allergy, follow these tips for helping your child live comfortably with latex sensitivity:

  1. If your child is to have any surgical procedures, alert the surgical team of the latex allergy during your preoperative visit so they can plan for a latex-free surgery and postoperative environment.
  2. Avoid all latex products at home and in the hospital.
  3. Ask your child’s physician to evaluate him/her for pre-medication before surgery to help prevent a reaction.
  4. Use a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace.
  5. Carry a pair of non-latex gloves, information about latex allergies, and/or a note from your child’s physician.
  6. Be sure hospital and school records have a latex allergy alert.
  7. Teach your child to know and avoid latex products.
  8. Know what to do in case of an emergency.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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