In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its glove use guidelines for healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. These guidelines, however, loosen latex allergy standards and may potentially put people with latex allergy at risk.
The guidelines include no precautions or education for latex allergy patients and there is no latex warning required on glove labels. The action also suggests that healthcare professionals can extend use of medical gloves between patients, a poor use of glove practice.
As a result of these guidelines, latex proteins may now be more present in healthcare settings.
What you need to know if you have a latex allergy
- Be aware of your environment, avoid latex products, be educated about your latex allergy and stay vigilant.
- Verify and Be Aware! Latex-free/safe labeling of products or environments (hospitals, clinics, EMS) may not be labeled. What was previously latex-free or latex-safe may not be any longer.
- Wear medical identification listing your latex allergy
- Carry with you at all times: Medications, as prescribed by your allergist (including anaphylaxis medications: two epinephrine auto-injectors; allergy medications: antihistamines; asthma medications: inhaler/albuterol); non-latex gloves; Latex Allergy Action Plan developed with your allergist.
- Notify the following people of your latex allergy and other pertinent information: Medical and dental providers; family members, friends, employer and co-workers; and EMS (if calling 911).
- Remember that hand sanitizer does not remove latex proteins or other allergens. Best practice is washing hands with soap and water.
- Know the symptoms of latex allergy: Itching, skin redness, hives (urticaria) or rash, sneezing, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, scratchy throat, difficulty breathing, wheezing (asthma), cough. Latex allergy symptoms can progress to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
- Remember that latex allergy is preventable, but there is no cure.
- Learn more about latex allergy diagnosis, prevention and treatment.