Latex Allergy - What About Protection?

lic. rat. med. Jerzy A. Kozłowski

Latex allergy affects not only healthcare workers but also professionals in other occupations where hand protection from biological factors and contaminants is necessary. Single-use latex gloves are the most common form of protection; however, due to the frequent occurrence of latex allergies, not everyone can use them. What are the symptoms of latex allergy, and what alternatives are available?

Latex Allergy - Key Information

The first descriptions of hypersensitivity reactions to latex in the form of contact urticaria and Quincke's edema date back to 1927 and were described by G. Stern and A. Grimm [1]. However, the problem of latex allergy was relatively small and did not arouse widespread interest, and even before 1980, allergy to latex proteins was rare [2]. With the increasing prevalence of latex products, the number of allergic reactions also rose. The first description of latex glove allergy dates back to 1992, and the first description of fatal exposures to latex occurred in the early 1990s [1].

W populacji ogólnej częstość alergii na lateks kształtuje się w granicach 0,66-18,3% (często wskazywany jest przedział od 1% do 6% ogólnej populacji) [3], a anafilaksji 0,4%. Częstość anafilaksji na lateks w warunkach okołooperacyjnych wynosi aż 20%. W przypadku pracowników ochrony zdrowia częstotliwość alergii w zależności od badań wynosi od 5,9% do 18,3% [1].

Latex Allergy - Hypersensitivity Reactions.

  • Contact dermatitis resulting from irritation is the most common latex allergy caused by gloves. It is caused by sweating hands, skin irritation from the material, the presence of soap and antiseptic residues on the skin. Powder in powdered gloves can dry out and irritate the hands. All of these factors together produce typical symptoms of irritation and latex allergy: redness, swelling, dryness, peeling skin, the formation of sores, and pimples.
  • Delayed-type latex allergy is less common but has a more generalized character and is associated with greater discomfort. Rashes in the areas of contact and on the forearms appear up to several hours after contact with the allergen.
  • Immediate allergic reactions are the most dangerous, although it depends on their severity. Immediate allergic reactions can manifest as hives and skin inflammation, but latex allergy symptoms can also be more serious: runny nose, conjunctivitis, bronchial asthma, angioedema, generalized reactions, and even anaphylactic shock [3].

The at-risk group primarily includes individuals who have frequent contact with latex products, especially healthcare workers, patients, beauticians, and individuals performing tasks that require hand protection. Even individuals with minimal contact with latex can develop allergies, especially patients with spina bifida and associated spinal cord herniation (SCDH), who are predisposed to latex allergies. The frequency of symptomatic latex allergy in this group is as high as 31% [1].

What gloves for latex-allergic individuals?

It's worth considering desensitization, which can be effective but doesn't provide a 100% guarantee. It is recommended to use non-allergenic gloveswith nitrile gloves being the most popular choice, which not only match but in some aspects even surpass latex gloves. Anti-allergic nitrile gloves  are widely used in medical procedures, including those requiring precision and maintaining an aseptic environment. Nitrile gloves offer the same level of tightness and resistance to viral penetration as latex gloves, but they are less stretchable, so it's important to choose the right size for full comfort.

Learn more about comparisons of properties of diagnostic and protective latex and nitrile glovesand also an article about Differences between latex, nitrile, and vinyl gloves.

Regardless of whether gloves cause allergies or not, it's important to remember the principles of hand skin protection, especially washing hands after removing latex gloves. To do this, use a neutral pH soap and moisturizing creams. It's also helpful to use protective creams before putting on gloves, which can be an effective method of protection against allergens. This creates a barrier between the skin and the gloves [3]. However, these creams should not contain mineral oils as they can weaken the gloves' structure​.


1. Katarzyna Gembka, Ewa Cichocka Jarosz, „Alergia na lateks – czynniki wywołujące, symptomatologia i postępowanie”, Alergia Astma Immunologia 2013, 18 (3): 151-163;

2. Maciej Kowalewski, Marek L. Kowalski, „Alergia na Lateks”, Alergia Astma Immunologia, 1997, 2(2), s. 78-86;

3. Wiesława Kamińska, „Alergia na lateks u pracowników służby zdrowia i możliwości jej ograniczania”, Bezpieczeństwo Pracy 3/2002, s.4-7;

4. Marta Chełmińska, „Alergia na lateks – część 1”, Pneumonol. Alergol. Pol. 2004, 72, 143-149;

5. Dorota Dziuban, Paweł Kowalczyk, Maciej Filocha, „ Ciemna strona pracy – alergie zawodowe”,Borgis – Medycyna Rodzinna 3/2011, s. 62-67;