Merchant of Venice


By Sharon E. Hohler, BSN, RN, CNOR

Perioperative nurses should have a good understanding of the science of latex allergies and how to protect patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) when updating hospital policies and guidelines. (See What is latex?) Who is at risk for latex allergy? Individuals who have been exposed to latex through a history of multiple surgeries face a higher risk of developing a latex allergy. According to the American Latex Allergy Association (ALAA), children born with spina bifida are included in this high-risk group.1

In fact, approximately 68% of spina bifida patients have a sensitivity to latex.1 Individuals born with long-term genitourinary abnormalities also may become sensitized to latex because of repeated urinary catheter usage.2 HCPs as well face an increased risk because of repeated exposures to latex products. People with food allergies are another group who may find themselves reacting with an allergic response to latex.3 The ALAA lists four foods with the highest risk of cross-reaction to latex as banana, avocado, chestnut, and kiwi.3 A moderate risk of latex cross-sensitivity




Protecting patients and staff

12 OR Nurse2015 January

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occurs with foods such as apples, carrots, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, papayas, and melons.3 Risk factors for latex allergy also include individuals who have contact dermatitis of the hands, hives, and itching after wearing latex gloves or contact with a natural rubber latex product.2 Individuals who develop generalized symptoms of rhinitis, hay fever, and asthma may have an undiagnosed allergy to latex proteins.2 Allergy testing can be done for individuals suspected of having a latex allergy. Diagnosis of latex allergy must be done by a licensed medical professional

who obtains a medical history, performs a...