March 17, 1994
Media Contact: Joann Rodgers
Phone: (410) 955-8659
Imagine you've worked your way through college, through med school and are tooling your way down life's highway as a respected pediatrician. Then it all comes to a sudden stop because of baby bottles. Or, more precisely, the rubber nipples on baby bottles.
Allergies to the latex of rubber gloves and other medical supplies are surprisingly common among health-care workers. They often pick up the allergy by breathing in traces of airborne latex, ed with the cornstarch that rubber-glove manufacturers put inside the gloves. People who undergo multiple operations also are prime targets, because theyre touched internally with the gloves.
"Latex allergies are a far more serious problem than most of us realize," says researcher Robert Hamilton, Ph.D. "Many people try to hide the allergy because they fear they'll lose their jobs. What happens is they get more sensitive and then have a serious allergic reaction. People have had to change careers because of it."
Aside from patient reports, there's no quick, inexpensive way to confirm a latex allergy -which at first may mimic simple skin irritation -- so Hamilton has a new study to test a better diagnostic approach, based on the culprit protein in rubber. Hamilton also sponsors a study group for sufferers to share information, for example, about unsuspected latex sources.