Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interview with Pilar Vicente García, nurse, member of the Spanish Association of Latex Allergy

Latex allergy, although currently very common, is still little known. According some studies, in Spain a 2% of the general population has developed it and in risk groups the number may reach a 15%. Once it appears, any area of a person’s life is involved because, where there is no latex?

We interviewed Pilar Vicente García, a member of the Spanish Association of Latex Allergy (Asociación Española de Alérgicos al Látex), and nurse.

S. & H.: Do you think that health professionals are sensitized or trained in this problem?

P.V.G.: Although the situation has improved in the last two or three years, much remains to be done. Nowadays there are many health professionals that do not know what to do when a latex allergic person arrives to their offices o divisions.

What aspects should be improved?

Basically, two things: information and training. It is a disease partially unknown for many health care professionals.

Could you give us some examples?

Well, one would be when a professional see us with elastic underclothes, and says: "Come on, you are allergic to latex and you wear latex elastic!". It is a very uncomfortable comment for the patient. The first thing you think is that they do not believe you are allergic to latex. Fortunately, patients are increasingly trained in patient safety. Then, as calmly as you can, you explain that there are clothes with synthetic materials elastics that do not harm us.

Another example would be the administration of a drug that comes in a glass vial and has a rubber plug; you instinctively ask "the plug is of natural latex?". Answers may be very different... "but I will not touch the plug" or "so I remove the plug and you're done". And there is an answer more and more frequent "I am going to ask, I will make sure". In the first two cases the patient has to explain that the liquid may contain latex proteins and, even though you remove the plug or not touch it, it can cause a reaction. So what occurs is an estrangement between the professional and the patient that does not benefit either party. The third answer may start a rapport with the professional who shows more interest for the problem and investigates whether the plug is natural or synthetic latex. This situation really benefits both parts.

Another situation that causes surprise is when you explain that there are foods that, having proteins similar to those of natural latex, can cause reactions similar to those caused by latex itself. This is what we call “latex-fruit syndrome", since tropical fruits are the most concerned: kiwi, pineapple, banana... but also tomatoes, oranges, melons...

So, no latex-allergic people can eat these foods?

No, according to reports only the 50% of those latex-allergic people develop the “latex-fruit syndrome", and not to all fruits, but the truth is that when the reaction to any of these foods appears, the list often starts to grow.

In addition to training and information, as you mentioned at the beginning, what could be done to improve the situation?

We think that it would be desirable that health care professionals invite patients to their meetings, seminars, etc. and give them the opportunity to explain their day-to-day routine, the obstacles they have to overcome because of their latex allergy, their feelings in relation to health care situations. It is not about confronting or criticizing; it is about intercommunicating and listening to each other, it is about gradually changing the current culture.

Patients know that health care professionals and we have a common goal, our safety, patient safety. Strangely we both walk toward that goal but in parallel and with and askance look, and so, we will never meet. We must learn to walk together, side by side.

What would you emphasize of the actions of your organization, the Spanish Association of Latex Allergy?

The spread of the disease has been very important. We have carried out a number of seminars in different regions specifically directed at health professionals, many of which had recognized health interest. Accurate information has been given to all patients allergic to latex. We have conducted studies in which realization we had always the support of the Ministry of Health and Social Policy, the professionals from different disciplines such as chemists, engineers, biochemists, dermatologists, allergists, etc. and the different areas such as universities, hospitals, nursing schools, research centres in biotechnology, etc.

You may see all this on the Association’s website, www.alergialatex.com. The studies mentioned can be downloaded for free from the Web.

Thank you very much for thinking of us and giving the latex-allergic people the opportunity of being present in the Safe and Healthy blog, which is very interesting.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Interview by Clara Formoso for Safe and Healthy
English version by Erika Céspedes

No comments:

Post a Comment