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Original Article


Latex Allergen Sensitization and Risk Factors Due to Glove Use by Health Care Workers at Public Health Units in Florianopolis, Brazil


ZS Buss, TS Fröde

Department of Clinical Analysis, Center of Health Sciences, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Campus Universitário – Trindade, Florianopolis, SC, Brazil.

J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2007; Vol. 17(1): 27-33



Background: Natural rubber latex allergy is a “new” illness whose prevalence has reached epidemic proportions in highly exposed populations such as health care professionals.

Objective: The aim of the study was to evaluate the frequency of reactions to latex and risk factors due to glove use in health care workers (HCW) in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil.

Methods: We evaluated latex-related allergy in 260 HCW by means of a questionnaire, skin prick tests (SPT) and serum latex specific IgE antibody levels. The subjects were divided into two groups depending on level of exposure to latex gloves. Comparisons were made between the different variables and a risk score was calculated using logistic regression analysis.

Results: Glove-related symptoms were observed in 57% of 140 HCW. Significant differences between HCW and control groups were found for the following symptoms: contact dermatitis (P < .0001), cutaneous rash (P < .0001), asthma or allergic rhinitis (P < .0001), symptoms associated with toy balloons (P < .0001), airborne glove powder causing latex allergen reaction (P < .0001), food allergy (P < .0001), fruit allergy (P < .0001) and multiple surgical interventions (P = .0052). Contact dermatitis and anaphylaxis were the main problems, with a high risk factor for the development of latex allergy. Logistic regression analysis showed a significant positive association
between the risk of latex allergy and those subjects who reported more than 4 positive answers on the questionnaire (including SPT) (odds ratio 6.8; 95% confidence interval 0.7-60.3). No latex-related allergy symptoms were reported by the control group. Serological latex specific immunoglobulin (Ig) E antibody levels were negative for both groups.

Conclusion: It is essential to recognize which professionals are sensitized to latex in order to provide appropriate treatment and to
establish adequate prevention.

Key words: Latex allergy. Health care workers. Skin prick test. Latex IgE antibody levels.