Clinical Rounds

November 2011 
Volume 41  Number 11
Pages 27 - 29
  PDF Version Available!

Based on findings from a large study, researchers say strong evidence suggests that latex allergy in healthcare workers (HCWs) is caused by airborne exposure to the powder on latex gloves. When powdered latex gloves were replaced with either nonlatex or powder-free latex gloves at two hospitals participating in the study, the rate of latex sensitization was reduced 16-fold. Use of powder-free latex gloves was associated with a "marked reduction," but not elimination, of new-onset latex allergy.The study tracked natural latex allergen exposures and latex allergies among 805 HCWs at two hospitals over 4.5 years. Besides gathering evidence from study participants about occupational and household latex exposures, symptoms, medical conditions, and other relevant data, researchers investigated air ducts at both hospitals to determine the level of airborne latex allergens circulating in work areas. They found that "latex antigen in dust from air ducts is a meaningful surrogate measure for the risk of latex sensitization."In this study, HCWs with latex sensitization were nearly three times more likely to leave their jobs compared to coworkers without sensitivity. About 25% of sensitized HCWs lost their sensitization after powdered latex gloves were removed and replaced with nonlatex gloves. Researchers conclude that their results "reinforce the effectiveness of the recommendation to eliminate powdered latex gloves to minimize the risk of latex allergy in the health care workforce."Source: Kelly KJ, Wang ML, Klancnik M, Petsonk EL. Prevention of IgE sensitization to latex in health care workers after reduction of antigen exposures. J Occup Environ Med. 2011; 53(8): 934-940.Temporary ED nurses and physicians were twice as likely as permanent staff to be involved in harmful medication errors, according to new research. Using an Internet-based national medication error reporting system, researchers analyzed data on nearly 24,000 ED medication errors in 592 hospitals between 2000

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