Latex glove use in the community

What is Type 1 latex allergy?

Latex is an allergen which can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which may be life threatening for some individuals. Latex allergy is caused by the proteins in the sap from the rubber tree, Hevea Brasiliensis.

Latex allergy can develop as a result of exposure to natural rubber latex (NRL), through skin or mucous membranes, or via the respiratory system.


Symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes of contact with NRL and may include:

• A red, itchy, swollen rash that usually settles within hours. However, with repeated exposure a more persistent dermatitis (rash) may develop.

• Hives

• Red and irritated eyes (conjunctivitis)

• Sneezing and a runny nose (rhinitis)

• Shortness of breath, which may progress to asthma.

Some people who are allergic to latex also develop allergies to foods which contain similar proteins, such as avocado, banana and kiwi fruit.

Latex is contained in many rubber medical and household products, but is most commonly found in disposable gloves.

For a full information sheet about latex allergy please see the ‘Health Professional’ section on the website.


Powdered latex gloves

Powdered latex gloves pose a bigger risk to health than non-powdered. Glove powder can increase risk of latex allergy by acting as a vector in transferring latex proteins from gloves to skin, facilitating sensitisation. Latex proteins attach to glove powder, and are released into the air when gloves are put on or removed. Inhalation or ingestion of the powder during glove removal can lead to symptoms.

Powdered disposable latex gloves may cause latex allergy, and have been removed from many parts of the acute healthcare sector. However, they are still found in other healthcare areas such as aged care, and also in the food and hair and beauty industry.

Powdered latex gloves used during food preparation pose a risk for people who are latex allergic and consume food prepared by a person wearing latex gloves. The glove powder acts to facilitate the transfer of the latex allergen to food during preparation, therefore potentially causing a reaction in the latex sensitive customer. Because of this risk, it is important that even those people working at a local sausage sizzle, or community food events, do not wear powdered latex gloves when preparing food.