Latex hypersensitivity in Department of Veterans Affairs health care workers: glove use, symptoms, and sensitization.
Background: This report of the prevalence of latex glove allergy in 3 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers was a collaboration of the VA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Objective: To enroll and evaluate personnel from across the entire hospital workforce for latex hypersensitivity and to determine the type and extent of latex glove use. Methods: A questionnaire was administered that covered demographics, job category, latex glove use, and current latex glove allergic symptoms. Skin testing to aeroallergens was performed to evaluate the presence of atopy. Blood was drawn for analyses of serum antilatex IgE antibody by CAP assay. Results: Of 1,959 subjects, 158 (8.1%) had latex glove-allergic symptoms, a positive latex CAP assay result, or both. In 1,003 subjects who reported latex glove use, 915 (91.4%) used nonpowdered gloves. A total of 133 subjects reported latex glove allergic symptoms, and 36 subjects had positive CAP assay results. Latex sensitization was correlated with atopy, race, and latex glove exposure. Latex symptoms were correlated with atopy, a positive CAP assay result, and latex glove exposure. Of the 133 subjects with latex glove allergic symptoms, only 11 had positive CAP assay results, giving a prevalence of confirmed latex glove allergy of 0.6%. Conclusions: Symptoms attributed to latex gloves and/or latex sensitization occurred in 8.1% of the employee population, with exposure, race, and atopy being the major risk factors. Few symptomatic individuals were sensitized to latex (0.6%). This low rate of confirmed latex glove allergy may have been related to nonpowdered glove use.
VA Chicago Health Care System/Lakeside Division, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA