Natural rubber latex comes from the rubber tree Hevea Brasiliensis. The milky, sap-like substance, that produces these particles is harvested using a process called tapping, and oozes from the tree when it is scored or “tapped”.
As a natural substance latex gives an optimal feeling. Natural rubber gloves allow health professionals to work with unique comfort, resistance, precision and elasticity. On that account they are preferred in medical professions.
At the same time though, raw latex contains approximately 200 different types of proteins out of which 14 have been identified as allergens, substances which may cause an allergy (hypersensitive immunologic response).
Allergy problems can be caused though by either allergens in natural rubber or chemical residues of the chemicals used in the production process of a product, independent of the type of material. Both natural rubber latex allergens as well as the chemical residues can cause allergy and are therefore a threat to the public health. To sum up, there are two types of allergies related to gloves:
Type I allergy (Latex Allergy)
A Type I allergy is an immediate allergic reaction to natural rubber latex allergens and can even be life threatening. Out of 14 identified types of allergens, 4 allergens are clinically proven to cause the majority of latex allergy Type I cases. These are Hev b 1, 3, 5 and Hev b 6.02. Symptoms, amongst others, are hives and hay fever. Though rare, more severe symptoms can occur such as anaphylaxis. A condition where there is a severe drop in blood pressure leading to possible loss of consciousness or serious breathing difficulty.
Type IV allergy
A lot of users react to chemical residues of the chemicals used in the manufacturing process, mostly accelerators. The symptoms are red, itchy skin, scaly rash, often localised to the area of use. Mostly wrists and forearms linked to glove use, but which may spread to other areas. Type IV allergy is an upcoming problem which can be directly linked to synthetic alternatives for which more and new chemicals are used in the production process.
Did you know?
The so-called accelerator free gloves contain chemical residues as well and may cause an allergy Type IV.