• Vol. 34 No. 5, 376–382
  • 15 June 2005

Latex Sensitisation in Healthcare Workers in Singapore

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ABSTRACT

Introduction: Epidemiological data on latex sensitisation among Asian healthcare workers is lacking. The aim of the study is to determine the rate of latex sensitisation in our healthcare workers. Materials and Methods: We recruited 313 healthcare workers, of which 46.6% were operating theatre staff and 53.4% were non-operating theatre staff. Seventy-one administrative staff served as controls. All participants answered a self-administered questionnaire relating to latex exposure and glove-related symptoms. Latex sensitisation was determined by skin prick testing to latex and latex-specific IgE detection. Results: The prevalence of latex sensitisation among healthcare workers was 9.6%, with no difference between operating theatre and non-operating theatre staff. Glove-related symptoms were reported in 13.7% of all healthcare workers, of which 22.9% were sensitised to latex. Only 26.7% of latex-sensitised healthcare workers had glove-related symptoms while the rest were asymptomatic. The most common symptoms were itch and hand eczema but the most important discriminating symptom was contact urticaria. Personal history of atopy was more common in sensitised healthcare workers (40.0%) compared to non-sensitised workers (31.8%). Only 1 out of 9 (11.2%) symptomatic latex-sensitised subjects had sought previous medical attention for the problem. Conclusions: Latex sensitisation among healthcare workers in Singapore should be considered a significant occupational health risk, as it is in the West. Increased screening and awareness of this problem is essential to identify those at risk.


Type I IgE-mediated natural rubber latex (NRL) hypersensitivity constitutes an important, but often undiagnosed, occupational health hazard for healthcare workers (HCWs), especially those with high exposure to latex gloves. Reports on NRL allergy have emerged steadily over the last 2 decades, with reported rates of sensitisation ranging from 3% to 17% of HCWs in the West.1-4 The most common clinical manifestation is contact urticaria, presenting with pruritus, erythema and urticarial wheals. Other clinical symptoms include eczematous lesions, occupational asthma and rhinitis. Undiagnosed Type I latex allergy is potentially life-threatening, with systemic anaphylactic reactions reported in sensitised patients.5

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