Allergic Reactions to Latex Gloves: Immediately Seek Medical Help

Well-fitting, high-quality gloves are an important tool used to help prevent infection. Unfortunately, up to 10% of the population are estimated to have some reaction to a latex protein present in this kind of rubber. Typically, the reaction is mild, but in some cases of allergy the reaction has been very severe causing the medical emergency known as anaphylactic shock.

A mild reaction may occur as a skin irritation called contact dermatitis. The skin may have an itching or burning sensation and may look red and swollen. The reaction occurs only in the skin contacted by the gloves and may go away during periods when no gloves are worn. It may also be caused by the powder used to make the glove easier to put on and remove. Treatment involves trying other brands of gloves and using anti-inflammatory creams.

More serious hypersensitivity reactions also may occur, either immediately or soon after putting on the gloves or delayed up to 48 hours later. Itching may progress to pain with a skin rash developing up the arm beyond the contact area or elsewhere on the body. Other body tissues may swell including eyelids, lips, face, and airway.

A serious systemic hypersensitivity reaction can be like other life-threatening allergic reactions. The person may experience hives on the body, difficulty breathing, nausea, a rapid heart rate, and anaphylactic shock. This condition is an emergency situation, and the person requires immediate medical help.

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