Latex Safety in Healthcare Settings
For people living with a latex allergy, avoiding latex products is the only way to avoid a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. While latex exposure can occur anywhere, healthcare settings can be especially problematic. This is because so much medical equipment and supplies contain latex.
Learning how to navigate doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals can help keep you safe.
Working in a healthcare setting
Repeated exposure to latex can lead to latex sensitivity. With continued exposure, a medical professional can go on to develop a full-blown latex allergy. People exposed to latex often include:1,2
- Healthcare workers
- Others who often wear latex gloves, such as food handlers
- People who have had 10 or more surgeries
- Rubber industry workers
Other people at increased risk of a latex allergy include:1,2
- People with certain food and other allergies
- People who get a rash (contact dermatitis) when using latex gloves
If you are a healthcare worker, make sure your supervisor and coworkers know about your latex allergy. Make sure it is also documented with human resources. Wear your medical alert jewelry at work, and always carry your allergy drugs and at least 2 epinephrine auto-injectors with you.
Talk with your department and team about replacing all latex gloves with latex-free gloves. Gloves also come in vinyl and nitrile. Other medical supplies may also need to be changed to latex-free options.3
The Americans With Disabilities Act covers latex allergies, so such accommodations are protected by law.3
Being a patient with a latex allergy
If you have a latex allergy, every healthcare professional you see must be told about your allergy. Make sure “latex allergy” is boldly noted on all your patient records and on wristbands.
You are well within your rights to ask all your doctors, dentists, nurses, technicians, and anyone else who comes into contact with you to use latex-free gloves and bandages. You should feel comfortable asking whether all equipment and supplies are latex-free.2
If you are having surgery, ask your doctor and the surgical team if everything in the operating room and recovery room will be latex-free. You can ask if the clinic or hospital has latex-free rooms or sections of the hospital.2
You should wear your medical alert ID at all times. You should also bring your allergy drugs and have epinephrine auto-injectors with you in case of an accidental exposure.
Things to think about
When you are diagnosed with a latex allergy, talk with your allergist about what this may mean in a medical or healthcare setting. Your allergist may have suggestions about things you have not thought about.
If you are going to have a medical or surgical procedure, it can also help to call your allergist to check in and make sure you are not forgetting anything. Ask if there is anything you should be especially mindful of with latex allergies and your medical procedure. It might also be helpful to discuss this with the team performing your procedure.
You may want to find a latex allergy support group for (or even a general allergy group) to connect with others and see what they have done in medical settings. You can look online for a local, in-person support group. You can also find support through the forums on this site. Hearing how others have managed their latex allergy in healthcare settings can be reassuring.