Contact dermatitis is the development of skin irritation with cracking, peeling, and possible splitting of the skin when wearing latex gloves. The skin improves after time if the person does not use latex gloves. If the individual continues to use the gloves then the irritated skin does not provide a good barrier of protection, and the latex protein exposure is greater. This will lead to the development of a more serious problem. The chemicals used in the processing of latex can also lead to the development of dermatitis. As the chemicals irritate the skin, the individual becomes more vulnerable to developing more serious reactions
Allergic reactions are the progression of problems due to latex. At this point, close contact to latex will not only cause a local reaction where the latex touches the skin, but can cause hives in other areas on the skin that were not touched. This allergic reaction can be systemic, meaning that it can involve the entire body.
The next level of latex allergy is more serious. The individual with any exposure to latex, whether by airborne latex protein particles or by touching latex, may have serious systemic reactions such as swelling of the lips, face, throat, breathing problems, chest tightness, wheezing and asthma symptoms. These reactions can be life threatening.
Individuals who have a latex allergy need to reduce their exposure to latex if any of these symptoms appear. By avoiding all exposure to latex, a very sensitive individual can reduce the severity of their allergy over time. As exposure begins to increase, the reactions will most likely return to the same level of severity.
If an individual is allergic to latex, avoidance is necessary. This includes avoiding toys, balloons, household objects, hospital equipment, etc. If the individual is to undergo a medical procedure no latex should not be used at all. Telling everyone that you are latex allergic is important. This causes an increase in the cost and effort needed to take care of a latex allergic individual. Seeing an allergist to determine the diagnosis of latex is very important to assure that an individual is truly latex allergic.
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