For reasons not yet clearly understood, some individuals can become allergic to certain constituents of the latex molecule. Once allergic, you may remain sensitive for the rest of your life. The common reactions of latex sensitive individuals exposed to latex are contact urticaria, dermatitis and asthma.
Contact urticaria usually presents with itching and swelling of the skin at the site of contact with latex. This may, for example, be a hand from wearing gloves, genitals from contact with condoms, etc. The symptoms usually start within 5 - 15 minutes after coming into contact with the latex article, although it can be delayed for several hours.
Symptoms can continue for a variable period, from several hours to days after the latex contact has ceased. Contact dermatitis from latex may take several days to appear. It presents with an itchy, scaly rash, although there may be small blisters if the reaction is acute.
The rash will usually last several days to weeks but if exposure to latex continues, the rash will last longer. Contact dermatitis is not generally caused by sensitivity to latex protein but rather to the chemicals used in the manufacture of the latex product, including antioxidants and rubber accelerators e.g. thiuram, carbamates, MBT, etc.
Immediate-type hypersensitivity requires previous sensitizations and is the most potentially dangerous reaction to latex. Clinical presentations vary but may include contact urticaria, coryza, conjunctivitis, stinging or burning, asthma, and, with mucosal or parenteral exposure, anaphylaxis.
A common cause for the asthmatic reaction is powdered gloves. The starch powder picks up the latex proteins and when the gloves are removed the powders can then be inhaled or come into contact with the skin on the face where it can cause an allergic reaction.
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