Natural rubber latex allergy: Spectrum, diagnostic approach, and therapy

Julia A. Woods, Susan Lambert, Thomas A.E. Platts-Mills, David B. Drake, Richard F. Edlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Latex allergy has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and is increasingly recognized as a significant contributor to morbidity and mortality during medical and surgical procedures. Ultimately, many of the affected patients with recognized latex sensitivity and those who are not yet diagnosed will receive treatment for their allergic reactions to latex in emergency departments. Consequently, emergency physicians must have a comprehensive understanding of the etiology, epidemiology, pathogenesis, treatment, and management of these challenging patients. Groups at high risk include spina bifida cystica patients, health care workers, latex industry workers, specific food-allergy patients, and patients with a history of atopy or multiple surgical procedures. Sensitization to latex antigens is commonly encountered in health care workers wearing latex gloves with high latex allergen concentrations and in workers using powdered latex surgical gloves. Exposure to air-borne allergens and water-soluble IgE reactive latex antigens from natural rubber latex products in sensitized individuals can result in type I (immediate) hypersensitivity reactions. Clinical manifestations include contact urticaria, dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma, angioedema, and anaphylaxis. Diagnostic tools include serological assays and skin prick testing. At present, latex avoidance is the only available treatment and is the key to preventing allergic reactions in latex- sensitized individuals. Health care worker sensitization to latex antigens in natural rubber products is becoming an increasing contributor to workers' liability and disability claims. Specific action can be taken to reduce occupational and patient exposure to latex antigens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-85
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • anaphylaxis
  • immediate hypersensitivity
  • latex allergy
  • natural rubber
  • occupational allergy
  • powdered latex gloves
  • spina bifida

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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