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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Latex Allergies & Nurses

Published April 1, 2015 7:58 AM by Guest Blogger

By Violet Edwards, Nursing Student BSN, Medgar Evers College

I wish to convey my concern for the safety of nurses. We are faced with challenges and risks each day on the job and are expected to provide safe quality care, yet our safety is constantly compromised. Latex allergy is still a problem in the hospitals and I am partially happy that you brought this topic to light.  

I agree that “nothing in the world can be latex free," but it is imperative that all hospitals aim to be latex safe. Nurses are expected to give safe quality care so therefore their environment should be conducive to such. As stated in the article, latex gloves are not the only medium of allergy for the nurse in the workplace so creating a latex resource nurse to work with the latex committees is not solving the problem.

Some nurses are forced to leave areas that they love because of their latex allergy. They end up in areas that are less fulfilling and hence they get bored and leave the job while the hospital loses a potential great employee. This should not have to happen seeing that there are other alternatives such as being latex safe.

I understand that to make a facility latex safe is costly, but I think that if its done at other hospitals and it works well then all hospitals should adapt the principle. It may end up costing the same or more to put into place the ALAA recommendations than to create a latex safe hospital. It is fair to say that some action is being taken to protect the nurse, but much still needs to be done to ensure that the nurse is safe in order to practice safely.


posted by Guest Blogger


I developed an anaphylactic latex allergy without warning on  December 4, 1998. The months that followed were spent fighting for my rights as an injured employee. During the mid 1980's to mid 1990's every active healthcare worker was being contaminated by latex because we were front and center in the HIV epidemic. For my younger peers, it can be equated to the Ebola outbreak. Physicians, Dentists, and Nurses were becoming sick (if they were lucky) and dying from exposures. Universal precautions were mandated which exploded the demand for latex products ... we were wrapped in it from head to toe for years. I came to learn through my own research that latex is a by-product of natural rubber. During the 80's-90's, to keep up with the demand for latex products, manufacturers' shortened the processing time(s) of the rubber compound, specifically by eliminating a washing cycle to meet demands. This resulted in a high retention level of the natural rubber which is the underlying contaminate.

Patty Hubbards' story is real. I also walk that same path. There are a lot of us. At last review, one of the high risk populations prone to latex allergy are persons afflicted by Spina bifida. Refer to for more details.

The severity of allergic reactions to latex and cross-contaminates range from sneezing, runny nose and eyes, rashes and anaphylaxis.    

My darkest moment was the day I went to my local Fire Station to introduce myself to the fire fighters and paramedics as a member of the territory they serviced and to inform them about my anaphylactic latex allergy. I assumed that they had a process whereby high risk individuals could "register" and "inform" them of my special needs. They listened intently and then compassionately enlightened me that IF they had to respond to my medical emergency they would "kill me" because they had no latex free products available to them. I was alone in this walk. In the end, I created my own latex free resuscitation box. It was bright yellow with a big red label that I kept in a prominent location in my home.

Today, I have reduced as much latex in my life as possible. I quickly recognize my symptoms when they do occur and I have developed a new career path in healthcare risk, compliance and accreditation.

Kathleen Manlove, Regulatory - RN, National April 20, 2015 11:14 AM
Cutler Bay FL

I would like to share with you some information regarding the efforts made by glove manufacturers as well as various health organizations in the U.S. in addressing latex protein allergy:

It may be noteworthy that the onset of latex protein allergy was due to the use of an older generation of inadequately processed latex gloves, with high residual protein and powder content in the 1990’s. Advancement in manufacturing has resulted in today’s low-protein and powder-free latex gloves, which have drastically reduced sensitization and allergic reactions in work places as shown by more than ten independent hospital studies in the U.S., Europe and Canada. More importantly, they also showed that healthcare professionals using these improved low-protein powder-free gloves can now work alongside their latex allergic co-workers with no heightened allergy concerns.

The positive impacts of low-protein latex gloves leading to the decline in latex allergy incidences have also been acknowledged in 2005 and 2007 by several renowned allergy researchers  from the then Chairman of the Allergy Committee of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI), from NIOSH, University of Toronto as well as the Wisconsin of Medical College. It was pointed out by all of them that the decline is attributed to the availability of the improved latex gloves with vastly reduced residual protein/allergen levels. It was even suggested that the allergy epidemic seems to have been eliminated

However, for individuals who have already become allergic in the early days, they need to practice latex avoidance, and should use non-latex gloves that can provide adequate barrier capability; Latex gloves have been shown by numerous studies  to have superior barrier performance. As a matter of fact, organizations such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), and the American Nurses Association do recommend the use of low-protein/ low-allergen options when latex gloves are used, as well as the recommendation of a latex-safe facility to be made available for allergic individuals in work places.  

In view of the above, creating a legislation to prohibit the use of latex gloves is really not warranted, given also that majority of the non-allergic healthcare professionals should be given a choice of glove use and not be deprived of the best barrier protection they can get.

Esah, Chemistry - Dr. April 16, 2015 12:26 PM
Washington DC DC

Dear Friends,

In May, 2000 I submitted my graduate thesis consisting of a 30 second public service announcement for non healthcare workers and a field study outlining the historical development and use of latex and the development of latex allergy in healthcare workers.

Since that time my own latex allergy has developed a level of severity which makes me wary of ANY environment due to a lack of understanding. I am often reproached for the inconvenience I am causing with a severe allergy to something as prolific and innocuous as rubber bands.

Even in hospitals which declare themselves latex free, rubber bands are proliferative in the environment and are often used in crash carts to organize supplies.

As a latex allergy expert and latex allergic operating room nurse who has worked in almost 30 hospitals in this country, I see a pervasive LACK of understanding, miseducation and disinterest in what will soon prove to be one of the leading hazards for workers in a wide variety of occupations. Auto mechanics, tattoo artists, restaurant workers, etc all use latex gloves! We need to work to educate and protect the public health, not just healthcare workers. Additionally, the environmental cost of harvesting latex for american hospitals is alarming!

A holistic view of the problem demonstrates the negative costs to communities worldwide as we chop more rainforest and enslave more low wage workers to support an industry which harms.

I am hoping we can find holistic and integrative solutions to this insidious public health problem and stop the harm before the costs are to great.

Courtney Allen-Gentry, RN,MSN,PHN,AHN-BC,NC

As a latex allergy expert, my efforts to educate patients, doctors and nurses falls on deaf ears while at the same time, I am asked "why are you in the operating room if you are allergic to latex?". My standard answer is that I have been in the operating room for more than 30 years, thereby I developed the allergy from work related exposure.

Courtney Allen-Gentry, RN,MSN,PHN, OR - RN,MSN,PHN,AHN-BC, Travel Nurse April 6, 2015 12:13 PM
Omaha NE

I had to leave my job as an ER nurse due to latex. I developed a sensitivity and within 6 months I was out. I am on disability due to the allergy. Over the last few years I have developed severe cross reactive allergies now. I have to wear a respirator when I go to most stores and have only 3 restaurants that I can safely go to without concerns about a latex reaction. I have even reacted to packaged foods. I am terrified of going to a hospital now as I also cannot be given Epi for a severe reaction.

Patty Hubbard April 2, 2015 3:33 AM
Montgomery AL


My name is Mandy Gennaro (Mary Catherine) I am working with a group of women in various professions (physician,nursing, pharmacy,dental) throughout the country trying to create legislation to prohibit the use of latex gloves.  We currently have bills is in HI, CT and MA.  NH and CA are in the process of developing bills.  We all have this allergy or our children have the allergy.  If you are interested in what we are doing please contact me.  We are a grass roots group but we are very  organized.  If you have any friends interested in this topic please have them contact me as well. We need testimony for all bills and you do not have to be from the state to provide it.  

We are also very interested in education.  If you are within driving distance I will come present on the topic. My colleague in CA is also very willing to present on this topic.  We would love to hear from you.  If we can help you at all please let us know. Mandy

Mary Catherine Gennaro, Family Practice - Physician, retired April 1, 2015 5:25 PM
Plymouth NH

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