This letter is in response to your article, "Allergic to Latex," in the March 1996 issue. I was glad you published an article on this topic. But, at the same time, I was disappointed in the quality of the article.
As a dental hygienist living with latex allergy, who has done extensive investigating on this subject, I am appalled at the reference list, as well as facts being misconstrued. There are many articles on latex allergy, most of which are in the immunology literature. This is how some key points have been missed.
First, the dental hygienist can handle the fact that latex allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction. It can be either a Type I, mast cell mediated, or a Type IV, CD4+T cell mediated, hypersensitivity reaction. Some individuals may experience both types of reactions. This is important information as it helps the reader understand the seriousness of the reaction and the fact that latex allergy is a potentially life-threatening allergy.
Second, latex is airborne! It is aerosolized each time someone dons a powdered latex glove. These particles stay airborne for a number of hours. Latex dust is then settled and is re-suspended in the air. This is a problem! Powder-free gloves prevent the aerosolization of latex particles.
A latex-free environment is difficult to achieve unless the facility is latex-safe or latex-free on a daily basis. This is mainly due to the latex aeroallergens. A latex-safe environment needs to be available to treat the latex-sensitive individual. This includes limiting latex aeroallergens. Treating the patient first in the morning is required. However, this isn`t enough. The operatory needs to be de-latexed via wiping down the room with a wet cloth; also, non-latex products should be used. A medical alert badge and injectable epinephrine have nothing to do with a latex-free environment. These items are necessary for the latex sensitive individual to have with him at all times.
Please check that the facts are not misinterpreted. Latex allergy is very complicated. Plus, latex is everywhere and anywhere. It may be worthwhile for dental hygienists to consult other sources for reference material.
Kathryn Jean Falcone, RDH