IPO Logo Home Search Browse About IPO Staff Links
Illinois Parks & Recreation
May/June 1995 Volume 26, Number 3

LATEX
The Hidden Dangers

by Tammy McCoy, CTRS, CLP and Marybeth Jones, CTRS, CLP

With today's trend toward inclusion of individuals with disabilities into community recreation programs, there is a strong need to educate the public on the possible allergic reactions to latex, particularly in individuals with spina bifida. The possibility of severe latex allergy in individuals with spina bifida was first raised in 1989. Since that time, research studies have shown that between 18% and 40% of children and adolescents with spina bifida are sensitive to latex as measured by history or blood tests. Although a lot has been learned about rubber allergy in the last few years, the problem is really just beginning to be studied and understood.

WHAT IS LATEX?
Latex is the milky sap from the rubber tree and an ingredient of rubber products. Some rubber products are made only from latex, while others only use latex as part of the product

WHO IS AT RISK?

People with spina bifida.
Anyone who has had a previous reaction to balloons, paper tape, koosh balls and other toys made with rubber.
Anyone with repeated exposure to latex products.

It is important to remember that even children who have never shown a reaction to latex can develop this allergy in the future just by exposure. Therefore, recreation providers need to minimize exposure whenever possible.

WHAT ARE SOME PRODUCTS WITH LATEX COMPONENTS?
The content of latex can vary by company and product series, therefore it is best to check with suppliers or manufacturers before using the product. While we learn more about the latex allergy, companies will continue to improve their products. This is by no means a comprehensive listing of all products found to contain latex, but it will give you an idea of what to consider.

Rubber gloves
Art supplies (paint, markers, glue)
Rubber balloons
Carpet backing, gym floors
Elastic bandages
Chewing gum
Paper tape
Foam rubber lining of braces
Rubber bands
Racquet, tool handles
Balls (koosh, tennis)
Wheelchair cushions, tires
Beach and water toys
Zippered plastic bags

WHAT ARE SOME ALTERNATIVES?
It is important to remember that avoidance of all latex products is necessary, due to the known fact of increased exposure over time can contribute to the development of an allergy. Alternative products are usually made of silicone, plastic or vinyl.

WHAT ARE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A POSSIBLE ALLERGY TO LATEX?

Skin rash
Itching
Hives, welts, swelling or redness anywhere on the body
Difficulty breathing
Eye tearing or irritation
Chest pains or chest tightness
Sneezing or coughing
Throat tightness
Wheezing
Painting/Unconsciousness
Anaphylactic shock

28 Illinois Parks & Recreation* May/June 1995


WHAT TO DO IN THE CASE OF AN ALLERGIC REACTION?

Remove the object causing the allergic reaction.
Rinse areas of skin exposed to the latex with large amounts of water.
If individual has difficulty breathing, or experiences chest pain/tightness, call for emergency help immediately.
Alert family and medical caregivers of the incident as soon as possible.
Suggest a Medic Alert bracelet.

What we are hoping to accomplish through this article is an overall understanding of the impact latex can have on recreation programming. Park and recreation professionals should identify those who may be at risk and take the necessary steps to reduce exposure. We are not expecting agencies to go out and replace all of their equipment overnight, but instead use safe alternatives when necessary.

Tammy McCoy, CTRS, CLP, is an Area Coordinator/or the Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA) in Rolling Meadows. Marybeth Jones, CTRS, CLP, also works at NWSRA as a Manager of Special Recreation Services.*

REFERENCES
Catherine Shaer, M.D., "Latex (Natural Rubber) Allergy in Spina Bifida Patients," Spina Bifida Spotlight, Washington, D.C, 1993.

Spina Bifida Association of America, Latex in the Home and Community. Washington. D.C., 1994.

The Children's Memorial Medical Center, Latex Allergy. Information for Parents. Chicago, 111., 1992.

RESOURCES
Spina Bifida Association of America 4590 MacArthur Boulevard NW, Suite 250 Washington, DC 20007-4226 (202) 944-3285

Federal Drug Administration Problem Reporting Program
(800) 638-6725 or
(301) 881-0256

Illinois Parks & Recreation* May/June 1995* 29


|Home| |Search| |Back to Periodicals Available| |Table of Contents| |Back to Illinois Parks & Recreaction 1995|
Illinois Periodicals Online (IPO) is a digital imaging project at the Northern Illinois University Libraries funded by the Illinois State Library
Sam S. Manivong, Illinois Periodicals Online Coordinator