Occupational Asthma Reference

Tarlo SM, Sussman GL, Holness DL, Latex sensitivity in dental students and staff: a cross-sectional study, J Allergy Clin Immunol, 1997;99:396-401,

Keywords: latex, cross sectional, dermatitis, oa, rhinitis, conjunctivitis, urticaria, prick test, Skin Tests, atopy, dentist, student

Known Authors

Linn Holness, Toronto University Linn Holness

Susan Tarlo, Toronto Susan Tarlo

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BACKGROUND: Dental practitioners, like other health care providers who regularly use latex gloves, are at increased risk for latex sensitivity. They are also at risk for irritant or allergic contact dermatitis.

OBJECTIVE: This study was carried out to determine the prevalence of latex sensitivity and possible risk factors in staff and students of a Faculty of Dentistry.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study was performed by using a questionnaire and allergy skin prick testing.

RESULTS: Two hundred three students and staff members completed the questionnaire. Five percent reported asthma symptoms on exposure to rubber products, 13% reported symptoms of rhinitis or conjunctivitis, and 17% reported pruritus or urticaria within minutes of exposure to rubber. Overall, 10% of 131 subjects who underwent skin prick tests had a positive response to natural rubber latex. Among the students tested, there were increasing percentages of positive skin test responses to latex with increasing years of study (0% of Year 1 and 2 students tested; 6% of Year 3; and 10% of Year 4). Positive responses were seen as early as Year 3 in students (in their second year of clinical activity and glove use). Positive skin prick test responses to latex were related to a personal history of atopy (p = 0.005), positive prick test responses to common allergens (p < 0.005), latex-attributed immediate pruritus or urticaria (p < 0.05), rhinoconjunctivitis (p < 0.001), and asthma symptoms (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: Dental school students and faculty are at high risk for latex sensitization. This occurs as early as the second year of glove use. Overall prevalence of skin sensitization was 10% of those tested. Preventive strategies in this group merit further investigation

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