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Life in a Bubble...When You're Allergic to the Bubble

Diagnosis & Treatment

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Mounting frustration from the diagnostic process of natural rubber latex allergy

"They never went outside with a net and brought a bee in and threw it down my pants to see what would happen, so why all the fuss when it comes to this allergy?"---Kurt, Latex Allergy Forum member

Diagnosis

A latex allergy can be diagnosed in different ways. A skin prick test can be administered, in which, the allergan is introduced by pricking the skin with a special device. If a severe allergy is questioned, a blood test can be performed which is safer for the patient. If the blood test is negative but the symptoms are present, you should consider yourself allergic to latex. You may ask why the blood test would be negative. Not all allergans are able to be tested with the blood test. For this reason, all factors must be considered when diagnosing a patient with a latex allergy.

Skin Prick Test
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Photos obtained from Yahoo Images August 10, 2004

Emergency Care Items

Someone with a latex allergy should have the following items readily available:

rescue inhaler or nebulizer as prescribed
antihistamine (e.g. diphenhydramine)
steroids (as prescribed by a physician)
epi-pen (for emergent treatment as prescribed)
latex-free gloves (vinyl or polyurethane)
medic alert necklace or bracelet

Medic Alerts
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Can be injected through clothes
epipeninj2.jpg
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Epipen Brand
epipen.jpg
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Can be injected directly
epipeninj.jpg
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Treatment
Unfortunately, the only "treatment" for a latex allergy is avoidance of all latex products. Antihistamines can be used to help lessen a reaction but they will not prevent it. Steroids are often administered for thirty-six hours after and exposure reaction to protect from further reactions. Epinephrine can also be used to stop the reaction. It is available in a self injection called an "Epipen". The question then becomes, "When do I use it at home?" According to Asthma and Allergy Information and Research, there are some guidlines you can follow:

When should I inject adrenaline (epinephrine)?

Some specialists say you should inject adrenaline (epinephrine) for any reaction. We don't agree.

Our recommendation is the:

'3D' RULE

1. Definite reaction: evidence of a reaction should be obvious.

2. Deterioration: the aim is to inject BEFORE life is in immediate danger. If the reaction is improving by the time you get the adrenaline (epinephrine), just keep the adrenaline (epinephrine) handy for six hours in case it gets worse again.

3. Death seems any sort of possibility if the deterioration continues another 5 to 10 minutes.

Only two things cause death: the '2D' RULE

1. Difficult breathing whether due to swelling in the throat or to asthma. If it really seems to be just asthma, an asthma inhaler may work. But adrenaline (epinephrine) will help in both asthma and throat swelling.

2. Deteriorating consciousness: once the child or adult patient is unconscious, life is in danger, if only from inhaling vomit, quite likely in a food allergy reaction. Make sure you know the 'recovery position' known to every competent first-aider. But give adrenaline (epinephrine) to prevent unconsciousness if that seems increasingly possible.

Finally, the '1D' RULE

* Do give adrenaline (epinephrine) if in doubt! If you think there may be any risk to life because of difficulty in breathing or because it seems possible the patient is beginning to feel faint or 'pass out', then the earlier you give the adrenaline (epinephrine), the better it will work.

It is important to remember that this is a recommendation. The final plan should be discussed with the individual physician.

Even if epinephrine is administered, if a person suffers from difficulty breathing, throat swelling, or tongue swelling, he should seek medical attention. He should consider calling an ambulance if the medications are unsuccessful, as they will have the equipment to assist him in the event that respiratory or cardiac arrest should occur.

Asthma & Allergy Information & Research