Latex Allergies: What Is Your Responsibility as a Manager?
by Karen L. Thurlow, BSN, RNC
Because any exposure to latex can cause symptoms in someone who is allergic to latex, it is critical that home healthcare managers take steps to promote a latex-safe environment when necessary. Some steps managers can take for employees with known or suspected latex allergies are:
- Develop policies and procedures for handling a latex-allergic employee
- Document the employee's symptoms and occurrences
- Send the employee to occupational health or a physician for an evaluation of symptoms and causes
- Evaluate the employee's job description and work site for products and supplies containing natural rubber latex
- Provide safe product alternatives for the employee to use (e.g. latex-free gloves)
- Have the employee obtain a medical alert bracelet for identification of a latex allergy
- Document all steps taken for the management of an employee who is allergic to latex
Following are some steps to implement for patients with known or suspected latex allergies:
- Integrate a latex allergy screening tool as part of the assessment
- Document the allergy clearly on the clinical record
- Remove all products containing natural rubber latex (NRL)
- Develop policies and procedures for handling a patient with latex allergies
- Provide educational information to the patient and family on latex allergies
- Keep a list of safe, latex-free product alternatives in the patient's record
- Notify the local rescue unit of the patient's allergy
To help ensure safe environments for their latex-sensitive patients, nurses should examine all supplies being taken into a patient's home as well as supplies purchased by the patient and his/her family. Most products made after October 1, 1998 disclose NRL information on the packaging, and many safe alternatives are available for products that typically contain latex.
When dealing with the issue of latex allergies, home healthcare managers must be aware of and understand the mechanisms behind it. By taking steps to help ensure safe environments for latex sensitive individuals, managers can effectively deal with the challenge.
*Article published in Home Healthcare Nurse Manager, October 1999, Vol. 3, No. 5