Who is at risk of an allergic reaction caused by latex?

There are a few different groups of people who might have a latex allergy. 10 – 17 % of healthcare workers have a latex allergy, because of latex gloves being widely used. 2 % of healthcare workers suffer from asthma like symptoms (occupational asthma) caused by their latex allergy. People who work in the rubber industry are also vulnerable to latex allergies because they are exposed to latex and the chemicals used to process latex a lot. A little under 4 % of people working at one glove company were shown to have a latex allergy.

Other people at risk include children with spina bifida or meningocoeles, or urogenital abnormalities. Spina bifida is a congenital abnormality (meaning the child has it from birth, and there was an error in the foetus's development) where the spinal cord can be open and exposed, usually in the lower back. If you are pregnant, you can prevent spina bifida by eating plenty of folic acid (vitamin B9). A meningocoele, or meningeal cyst, is a fluid-filled cavity in the spinal cord. Urogenital abnormalities include testicular maldescent (where the testicles are inside the abdomen rather than in the scrotum) or hypospadias (where the urethra does not open at the tip of the penis).

People who have undergone lots of operations, especially in early life, may also be susceptible to a latex allergy. This is because many surgical gloves are made from latex. People who also have a genetic tendency to have allergies are also likely to have a latex allergy – if other people in your family have allergies, or if you have a number of other allergies, you may be at risk of a latex allergy.

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