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Understanding Safety Supplies: Concerns About Latex Allergies

Latex Gloves Safety Supplies

It’s important to understand the risks of latex allergies when choosing safety supplies for your workforce.

Latex work gloves provide an invaluable level of versatility and performance in both the medical and industrial sectors. Made of natural rubber, these safety supplies have a very high elasticity compared to other types of gloves, and they fit like a second skin. They also offer:

  • Outstanding grip
  • Temperature resistance
  • Flexibility
  • Durability
  • Touch sensitivity
  • Resistance to water, alcohols and some ketones
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Comfortable to wear for extended periods
  • Biodegradable

Unfortunately, there is a segment of the population that is allergic to latex. This can range from mild irritation all the way to it becoming potentially fatal. And while severe reactions rarely progress to becoming life threatening, it’s important that employers understand the potential risks. Consult a professional medical examiner if conditions become severe or does not improve within 7 days.

There are three types of latex reaction:

1. Irritant Contact Dermatitis

This is the least severe type of reaction, but it is one that many people experience. It typically occurs when workers are required to use them repeatedly, or for long periods of time. Some of the conditions of the affected area of skin can include:

  • Dryness
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Lesions

The repeated washing of hands after wearing latex gloves also contributes to the aggravation. There are a number of ways to alleviate these symptoms, including moisturizing your hands frequently or wearing glove liners.


2. Allergic Contact Dermatitis

While this level of reaction is not usually life threatening, it is still a concern in the medical profession for both employees and patients receiving treatment. There is usually a delayed reaction after the initial contact, and symptoms can be more severe compared to irritant contact dermatitis. The reaction can also spread to other areas of the body and last longer.


3. Latex Hypersensitivity

This is the most serious reaction to latex, and if left untreated, it could become fatal. The condition is triggered after skin comes into direct contact with latex, after which you can develop hay fever-like symptoms:

  • Pink eye
  • Cramps
  • Hives
  • Severe itching
  • Red eyes
  • Asthma

In truly severe cases, people sometimes develop:

  • Hives
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Chest pains
  • Breathing difficulties

This reaction is treated with an allergic antibody that combats the latex proteins found in gloves.


Alternatives to Latex Safety Supplies

If you have employees who react to latex, there are a number of ways to deal with it. Depending on the level of reaction, you might need to use an alternate material, such as nitrile or vinyl work gloves (provided they still offer the required level of protection).

In other instances, you could switch from powdered latex gloves (which make putting them on and taking them off easier) for non-powdered ones. This is because powdered gloves are more likely to carry latex proteins that contribute to the symptoms. 

For more information on how gloves protect your hands, read our post: Understanding Safety Supplies: Chemical Protection for Your Hands.


Do you need work gloves to protect your workforce? JET Uniform & Supplies carries a range of safety supplies for a range of industries and applications. Call us to learn more.