What Caregivers Should Know About Latex Allergies
If you are a caregiver, professional or otherwise, you should wear gloves to perform most of your tasks. If you prepare food, bathe, do laundry, clean up, or assist with toileting for someone else, you should adhere to a strict level of cleanliness. Wearing disposable gloves protects both you and the person you care for. Illness, bacterial contamination, and viral spread all occur without this precaution.
Gloves, however, are the most obvious source of latex exposure for a caregiver, so if you have a latex allergy, it is crucial that you be safe. Most companies have phased out latex ingredients, if possible, to prevent potential allergic reactions. However, latex can still be present in gloves and other types of medical supplies, including: catheters, and urinary, incontinence, and ostomy supplies.
Latex Allergy Symptoms
For a small percentage of the population, latex allergies present a very real danger. If you have an allergy, you are likely aware of it by now, as latex is everywhere. If you aren't certain, though, the symptoms are quickly obvious.
For a non-life threatening reaction, the area of contact will react with dermatitis. The skin will swell and form red whelps that look like poison ivy. The blisters can itch, break open and ooze, and possibly get infected if not kept clean and treated. Over-the-counter antihistamines will treat this type of reaction. On the more serious end of the spectrum, a person who is allergic can react to contact with latex by going into full-blown anaphylactic shock. If not treated immediately, anaphylactic shock swells the mouth, tongue, and windpipe off. The person suffocates and can die.
Latex Allergy Treatment & Diagnosis
If you suspect you have a severe latex allergy, you need to alert your family doctor. You will need to carry emergency prescription epinephrine on you (usually in an injectable pen). You will also need to let someone else know, like your employer or some other person in charge, as epinephrine is dangerous if taken accidentally. Also, you will need to train someone else to use the epinephrine in case you have a reaction and cannot administer it yourself. Lastly, it is important to let someone else know, because if you have a dangerous reaction, you will not be able to care for your charge.
As a caregiver, it is also important to inquire about potential allergies your patient may have. If you are uncertain about their allergies, it is always best practice to ask your patient's doctor.
After verifying that you or your patient have a latex allergy, it is important that you only buy or request non-latex medical supplies. If you are not the one purchasing the medical supplies, whoever is will have to buy products that are listed as "Latex Free."
For more information about latex allergies, read this.