INCREASING numbers of people worldwide are suffering from severe allergic reactions to latex products. The problem is often encountered in hospitals, commonly affecting operating theatre staff and patients who undergo frequent surgery - gloves and catheters are often made of latex. Dr Chris Lovell, a dermatologist from Bath, reported in General Practitioner newspaper that one patient recently suffered a severe reaction during a pelvic examination.

Hypersensitivity to latex is manifested by swelling or itchy bumps after the use of gloves, or swollen lips after blowing up balloons. Reactions to latex in condoms are also quite possible.

The recent increase in these allergic reactions may be because rubber tree production is now artificially stimulated and purifying processes are faster. This leads to greater quantities of the protein responsible for the reactions remaining in the final products.