Posted on: 28 September 2020

Protecting staff and customers from latex allergies

Latex is a material used as an ingredient in many different applications or products because of its durability, stretchiness and waterproof properties. However, as a natural material, some people have been found to have allergies to it.

Many different types of businesses use products or applications containing latex, such as disposable gloves or adhesives, usually for hygiene and resilience, but it can also cause anaphylactic shock if someone has an allergy.

Take a look at our guidance below on how to protect staff, customers or other visitors if you regularly use latex-based products or applications.

Latex allergies

The exact amount of latex it takes to cause an allergic reaction is unknown, but the more latex that someone is exposed to, the more severe a reaction is likely to be.

Symptoms of an allergy could develop instantly or take a few hours to develop, and usually have these characteristics depending on the severity:

  • Mild reactions – Skin redness, rash, hives or itching
  • More severe reactions – Runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throat or asthma
  • Severe reactions – Anaphylactic shock, respiratory problems such as shortness of breath and wheezing, faster heart rate and drops in blood pressure, swollen muscles and confusion.

Latex irritation

Some people experience much milder symptoms, known as a latex irritation, which is not classed as an allergy and has the following symptoms:

  • Dry, itchy and irritated skin on the areas where the latex has been.
  • Contact dermatitis, sometimes known as chemical sensitivity dermatitis. A skin rash caused by contact with chemicals that can resemble a rash caused by poison ivy.

Protecting customers from latex allergies

Hair and beauty industries

In the hair and beauty industries, disposable gloves are frequently used when performing treatments for clients, especially in the hair industry, as disposable gloves protect skin against the chemicals used for hair bleaching and colouring.

Before every treatment, you should give your client a safety form to fill out, in which there should be a question on whether or not your client knows if they have a latex allergy.

Tattoo artists also need to use disposable gloves to protect both the client and the artist for hygiene.

Be prepared to source latex-free products and applications for clients who have  latex allergies

Hospitality and leisure industry

Again, the hospitality industry is one of those that sometimes use disposable gloves, especially in the preparation of food.

When you employ a member of staff, it is important to find out if they have allergies, not only to latex but also to the 14 allergen groups, which you will be able to see here. Using disposable gloves will protect workers from these allergens, but could be the cause of a reaction if your employee has a latex allergy.

There are also businesses in the leisure industry who may handle food directly, such as cinemas serving popcorn, so disposable gloves will be essential for hygiene.

Healthcare industry

Most of the medical practices that we cover, such as dental surgeries, acupuncturists, care homes, opticians and counselling and therapists, will use disposable gloves, mainly for hygiene when dealing with their patients.

Disposable gloves are used frequently in the medical industry as standard, especially while COVID-19 remains a threat, as disposable gloves are a form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and can be used to protect a medical professional from COVID-19.

During a consultation, you should check with clients to make sure that they don’t have a latex allergy, and you should record any allergy in a document for future reference. When taking on a new member of the team, you should also check to see if they have a latex allergy. Keep a supply of latex-free disposable gloves to accommodate any clients and staff who may have a latex allergy

What to do if you have a latex allergy

If you know that you have a latex allergy, take the following precautions:

  • Avoid contact with products or applications that contain latex.
  • Avoid areas where you could be exposed to latex dust from products and applications used by others.
  • Make sure that you have passed on information about your latex allergy to line managers, first aiders and other relevant parties.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet, where safe to do so if the latex allergy is severe.

If a customer, client, member of staff or other visitors to the premises develops the symptoms of an allergy after coming into contact with a product or application that contains latex, avoid any further contact with products or applications that may contain latex until they have seen a medical professional.

Business insurance with Premierline

It’s important to make sure that you have the right insurance in place to protect the business that you have built.

Every business is different and has its own business insurance needs, which is why we work with some of the UK’s most well-known insurers to make sure that you are getting the right insurance cover for your business. If you are looking for further COVID-19 business insight, take a look at our Coronavirus Information Page.

Source: Zywave inc – Health Care: Playing it Safe – All About Latex Allergies

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