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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK


Hospital strikes back against rubber glove allergy

Dentists are among health workers at risk from latex

A hospital in Bristol is calling on the government to ban a brand of latex gloves which make one in 10 health workers ill.

Cheaper brands of latex gloves contain a powder which absorbs latex proteins and carries them into the air. This can cause eye infections, swelling, rashes, breathlessness and asthma for people who are allergic to latex.

The more often the gloves are used, the greater the chance of developing a latex allergy. And the affliction follows sufferers into the home, giving them a reaction to domestic products containing latex, such as condoms and balloons.

Studies show that one in 10 health workers have a reaction to the gloves, along with 1% of the general population. Very rarely, latex allergy can prove fatal. In the USA, at least 16 people - all spina bifida patients - have died from the allergy.

Glove risk

Those most at risk include people involved in making the gloves, those who have a lot of hospital operations or had operations when they were young, people with a history of allergies, especially allergies to fruit and nuts, and those with severe skin problems on their hands.

Frenchay hospital in Bristol has developed a new powder-free glove with a commercial manufacturer. It has also set up a system for identifying patients who may be at risk from the powdered variety.


Most large hospitals get through around 100,000 rubber gloves a year. Frenchay hopes its stand will encourage others to ban powdered brands. The Department of Health says it is up to individual hospitals to choose which gloves to use.

In the USA, where over 1,700 people have developed a severe latex allergy, many hospitals are now using powder-free gloves.

One person who is glad about Frenchay's new policy is dental nurse Sandra Francis from Gloucester.

She is due to have an operation at Frenchay and was dreading it because she developed an allergy to latex gloves during a previous operation. She says she has been "reassured" to learn of Frenchay's new policy.

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