Many industrial manufacturing environments require workers to wear protective gloves, including during electronics and medical device production and assembly. Latex gloves not only protect workers from harmful chemicals but also protect products from worker contact and contamination during manufacturing and assembly processes.
Minor vs. Fatal Latex Glove Allergic Reactions
Allergies to latex gloves are well-known, and reactions extend from minor irritations (Type IV), such as itching, to severe, life-threatening reactions (Type I) similar to those associated with peanut allergies. Latex gloves can be made with synthetic materials or of natural rubber, but only natural rubber latex gloves can trigger severe allergic reactions.
People with extreme allergies to natural rubber latex can go into anaphylaxis shock, caused by the protein in natural rubber gloves. The body’s immune system reacts to what it considers to be a harmful substance by producing immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that are released into the bloodstream each time the person is exposed, causing the allergic reaction to increase.
Anaphylactic reactions develop instantly after latex exposure in highly sensitive people, but anaphylaxis usually doesn’t happen the first time.
Mayo Clinic signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis –
- Difficulty breathing
- Hives or swelling
- Nausea and vomiting
- Drop in blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
- Rapid or weak pulse
Type IV allergic reactions, however, are much more common and usually result from exposure to the accelerator groups of chemicals used during manufacturing to “cure” the gloves. Accelerators work to strengthen the physical properties and improve the performance of polymers used in rubber and synthetic (nitrile) latex gloves. In particular, thiurams and carbamates, and to a lesser degree thiazoles, aldehydamines and guanidines chemicals might cause reactions.
Anaphylactic shock symptoms
Allergic reaction treatment includes applying medications and moisturizers and possibly taking antibiotics, should a secondary infection occur. If needed, like other allergy desensitization methods, a patient’s tolerance can be built up by administering measured doses of the allergen, i.e., allergen immunotherapy.
An easier method for reducing unwanted reactions would be to avoid the allergen. First, however, the allergy needs to be confirmed by a medical specialist. Are the gloves responsible for the reaction? A simple patch test would confirm whether the gloves are responsible wherein the skin is scratched and purposely exposed to known latex chemical irritants.
Latex glove labeling should clearly include the accelerators used during the manufacturing process so that the test for allergies can be easily and effectively determined if needed. Knowing this information can help get to the root of the cause faster and save time and money by reducing possible downtime or medical bills.
Only about 1% of the population is allergic to latex gloves and gloves made without using latex are available; however, they generally do not provide as much protection.
Mayo Clinic mild and severe symptom identification –
- Skin redness
- Hives or rash
More severe symptoms
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Difficulty breathing
Our thanks to QRP Gloves & Fingercots for providing this valuable information to the manufacturing community. QRP – makers of specialized finger cots and latex, nitrile and vinyl gloves.
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