Natural rubber latex (NRL) allergy occurs frequently in children with spina bifida and other children with disorders requiring multiple operations. Also atopic children who have not undergone surgery can be sensitized to NRL, but the outcome of these children has not been studied.
To study how NRL-allergic children manage at home and whether their skin prick test (SPT) reactivity, latex RAST or IgE antibody levels to NRL allergens change during the follow-up.
Twenty-four NRL-allergic children who had not undergone surgery and eight children with histories of multiple operations were followed up for a mean of 2.8 years. Clinical symptoms were recorded and all children were re-examined with SPT, latex RAST and ELISA for IgE antibodies to prohevein (Hev b 6.01), hevein (Hev b 6.02) and rubber elongation factor (REF, Hev b 1).
Nineteen of the 24 NRL-allergic children (79%) who had not undergone surgery had occasionally contacts to balloons and other NRL products at home, and 10 of them experienced symptoms ranging from contact urticaria to systemic reactions. Three of the eight NRL-allergic children with a history of multiple operations had contacts to rubber balloons without any symptoms, and five children underwent 1–8 uneventful operations in a latex-free environment. SPT reactivity to NRL allergens, latex-RAST or IgE antibody levels to prohevein or hevein did not change in either group of NRL-allergic children during the follow-up.
Occurrence of clinical symptoms and no decrease in SPT reactivity or IgE levels to NRL allergens in the course of the present follow-up study imply that more attention should be paid to the protection of NRL-allergic children from rubber contacts in the home environment.