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Latex allergies in the workplace

Business owners in New York need to provide alternatives to latex to prevent workers' compensation issues related to allergies. A number of adverse reactions, and even death, can occur for those with sensitivities to this rubber material.

According to the United States Department of Labor, people who work in health care are especially impacted by latex, as latex-containing medical devices and gloves are prevalent. It is estimated that up to 12 percent of workers are sensitive to this material. 

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there are a number of reactions that one may experience if sensitive or allergic to latex. Immediate reactions for those with previous exposure may include itchy or scratchy throat, sneezing, wheezing, coughing and watery, itchy eyes. Delayed reactions, occurring up to 36 hours after contact, may include itchy, scaly and red skin.

Anaphylactic symptoms are especially concerning, as they can be life threatening. These signs include:

  • Swollen areas, especially in the throat
  • Hives and red skin
  • Difficulty breathing or fainting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Difficulty swallowing

People who experience any of these allergic symptoms should see an allergist, but those who experience anaphylactic shock should seek immediate medical care.

There are a number of preventive actions that can be taken to minimize latex allergy reactions. Proper training is necessary so workers understand the signs of allergies. Proper alternatives, such as nitrile, vinyl and polymer gloves, should be provided, especially when working around infectious materials. Those who are known to be allergic should communicate with their teammates and make modifications to the work space if necessary.

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