The most effective public health strategy to prevent health care workers from developing an allergic sensitization to latex gloves is to stop using powdered latex gloves, say researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Researchers studied more than 800 health care workers at Froedtert Hospital and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin over a 4.5 year period. They tested the amount of latex allergen in the air ducts of the employees' primary work areas before and after both institutions switched to powder-free gloves.
The results show a significant correlation between high levels of airborne allergen and health care workers with a latex allergy or sensitivity. Specifically, researchers determined that there was a 16-fold reduction in the rate of latex sensitization among the study participants. Among the health care workers who were sensitized to latex at the beginning of the study, 25% lost that sensitivity and are no longer considered sensitized to latex. Whether these workers will re-develop latex sensitization if exposed to latex in the future is unknown, say the researchers.