Do you know if your dentist uses latex gloves? Are you in danger?
My interest in the dangers of latex allergies
My name is Dr. Endre Selmeczy. I am a local dentist in Livermore. I became very interested in the latex issue when my office manager and significant other, Annette, came close to death in a restaurant few years ago on Mother's Day. After finishing her dinner, she went into anaphylactic shock due to an allergic reaction to the latex gloves the restaurant used in their kitchen during food preparation. Thanks to the quick emergency response team in Monterey, she is still alive, but her latex allergy changed her life.
The increase in latex allergies
The incidence of serious allergic reactions to latex has increased dramatically in recent years. In rare cases, these allergies can be fatal. It is somewhat difficult to say how widespread the problem of latex allergy may be. It is assumed that many cases go unreported. In one 1994 study, 6 percent of volunteer blood donors were found to have increased levels of anti-latex IgE antibodies. The incidence of latex allergy has been increasing since the introduction of universal precautions in health care settings, including the widespread use of latex gloves to prevent the spread of AIDS and hepatitis B.
Latex allergy can cause serious physical symptoms
Latex allergy or hypersensitivity occurs when the body's immune system reacts to proteins found in natural rubber latex. The immune system launches a defense that can cause a host of unpleasant or, in some cases, life-threatening symptoms
Type I latex allergies are the most serious and can cause nausea, low blood pressure, respiratory arrest, and even death. Symptoms begin within minutes after contact with the protein allergens in latex.
Type IV, the most common latex allergy, is less serious. The symptoms include dry skin, hives, tingling sensations, or itching. Symptoms usually appear 48-72 hours after the initial exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least sixteen people have died as a result of latex allergy.
Allergy to latex proteins is a new medical problem with symptoms similar to those seen in individuals who are allergic to bee venom. Reactions on exposure to the allergen are generally acute and may mimic hay fever or asthma, with symptoms such as nasal congestion, hives or difficulty breathing. The most severe cases can result in anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction that affects many parts of the body at once. Symptoms are usually immediate, progress rapidly, and may include a dangerous drop in blood pressure, flushed skin, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, tongue and nose, and loss of consciousness. That is what happened to Annette in Monterey.
Signs and risk factors of latex allergy
Natural rubber latex is a processed plant product derived almost exclusively from the Hevea braziliensis tree found in Africa and Southeast Asia. Some indicators of an increased risk of latex allergy include a history of allergic problems or food allergies to tropical fruits, hazelnuts, chestnuts, or stone fruits.
Awareness and prevention
Individuals who have an increased exposure to the effects of latex allergy include those with a history of early and/or recurrent surgical or medical procedures, health care personnel and others who wear latex gloves, and individuals with occupational exposure to latex.
The future of latex use
I am convinced that latex gloves will be outlawed in the future -- not just from dental offices, but from restaurants as well. The question is how many people will die or end up in the emergency room before that change happens.
I want our community to be aware of the potential risk of latex. Failure to recognize the risk in time can be fatal. If you think that you may have an allergy to latex, contact your family physician or allergist for more information. Being allergic to latex is not a reason to avoid your dental appointments. You need to inform your dental office and ask your dentist if he/she can accommodate your special needs.
If you have any questions, please contact Annette or me at our office.
Phone number: 925-447-9344 Address: 489 North L Street, Livermore, CA 94550 Email: email@example.com