NIOSH Case Reports

The latex safety alert issued by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) describes the experiences of five health care workers and one medical supply company employee who developed latex allergy after occupational exposures. NIOSH points out that the cases do not represent all reactions to latex, but are examples of the most serious types of reactions. They illustrate what has occurred in some individuals.

Case No. 1

A laboratory technician developed asthma symptoms after wearing latex gloves while performing blood tests. Initially, the symptoms occurred only on contact with the gloves, but later symptoms occurred when the technician was exposed only to latex particles in the air.1

Case No. 2

A 33-year-old woman sought medical treatment for occupational asthma after six months of periodic cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and occasional wheezing. She had worked for seven years as an inspector at a medical supply company, where her job included inflating latex gloves coated with cornstarch. Her symptoms began within 10 minutes of starting work and worsened later in the day. Symptoms disappeared completely while she was on a 12-day vacation, but they returned on her first day back at work.2

Case No. 3

A nurse developed hives in 1987, nasal congestion in 1989, and asthma in 1992. Eventually she developed severe respiratory symptoms in the health care environment even when she had no direct contact with latex. The nurse was forced to leave her occupation because of these health effects.3

Case No. 4

A midwife initially suffered hives, nasal congestion, and conjunctivitis. Within a year she developed asthma, and two years later she went into shock after a routine gynecological examination during which latex gloves were used. The midwife also suffered respiratory distress in latex-containing environments when she had no direct contact with latex products. She was unable to continue working.3

Case No. 5

A physician with a history of seasonal allergies, runny nose, and eczema on his hands suffered severe runny nose, shortness of breath, and collapsed minutes after putting on a pair of latex gloves. He was successfully resuscitated by a cardiac arrest team.4

Case No. 6

An intensive care nurse with a history of runny nose, itchy eyes, asthma, eczema, and contact dermatitis experienced four severe allergic reactions to latex. The first reaction began with asthma severe enough to require treatment in an emergency room. The second and third reactions were similar to the first. The fourth and most severe reaction occurred when she put on latex gloves at work. She went into severe shock and was successfully treated in an emergency room.4

References

1. Seaton A, Cherrie B, Turnbull J. Rubber glove asthma. Br Med J 1988; 296:531-532.

2. Tarlo SM, Wong L, Roos J, et al. Occupational asthma caused by latex in a surgical glove manufacturing plant. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1990; 85:626-631.

3. Bauer X, Ammon J, Chen Z, et al. Health risk in hospitals through airborne allergens for patients pre-sensitized to latex. Lancet 1993; 342:1148-1149.

4. Rosen A, Isaacson D, Brady M, et al. Hypersensitivity to latex in health care workers: Report of five cases. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1993; 109:731-734.

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. NIOSH Alert: Preventing Allergic Reactions to Natural Rubber Latex in the Workplace. DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 97-135. Washington, DC: NIOSH;1997.