Latex Allergies and Students with Disability
ADA and allergies
A person with a disability is described as someone who has a physical or intellectual disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or is regarded as having such impairments. Breathing, eating, working, and going to school are major life activities. Asthma and allergies are considered disabilities under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) legislation, even if symptoms are controlled by medication. The ADA also affects school policies. For example, a private preschool cannot refuse to enroll children because giving medication to or adapting snacks for students with allergies requires special staff training or because insurance rates might go up. Public schools and programs cannot avoid their responsibility by claiming to have limited funds or resources.
Awareness of allergies might be the first step to avoid allergic reactions. If you are not certain whether you have a specific allergy, you can consult an allergist. There are skin and blood tests designed to detect allergies and their respective allergens. Here are other recommendations to avoid allergies:
1. Use non-latex gloves for activities that are not likely to involve contact with infectious materials (food preparation, routine housekeeping and maintenance).
2. Appropriate barrier protection is necessary when handling infectious materials. If you choose latex gloves, use powder-free gloves with reduced protein content.
3. When wearing latex gloves, do not use oil-based hand creams or lotions (which can cause glove deterioration) unless they have been shown to reduce latex-related problems and maintain glove barrier protection.
4. Frequently clean work areas contaminated with latex dust (upholstery, carpets and ventilation ducts).
5. Frequently change the ventilation filters and vacuum bags used in latex-contaminated areas.
6. Learn to recognize the symptoms of latex allergy such as skin rashes, hives, flushing, nasal or eye itching, sinus symptoms, asthma, and shock.
7. If you develop symptoms of a latex allergy, avoid direct contact with latex gloves and products until you can see a physician experienced in treating latex allergy.
8. If you have latex allergy, wear a medical bracelet.
9. If you have latex allergy tell school staff and teachers.
10. Provided staff training about allergies and procedures.
11. Establish an emergency plan and allergy protocol.
Equipment containing latex
Latex is very common in household, schools, work and medical environments. If you have latex allergy, consider avoiding the following items:
|Emergency Equipment||Household/School||Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)|
|Blood pressure cuffs Disposable gloves
Oral and nasal airways
Electrode pads Catheters
Expandable fabrics (waistbands)
Baby bottle nipples
A safe school for latex sensitive children
Latex avoidance has become the accepted standard of care for children in a school system. However, safeguarding children in school from exposure to products made of natural rubber latex can be a challenge. Latex can be found in everything from classroom and janitorial supplies to gymnasium equipment. Latex can be harmful to latex-sensitive children such as those with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, asthma, eczema, or food allergies. Parents, teachers and school administrators can minimize exposure to latex by developing a school safety plan. Here are some ideas to help you develop a safety plan:
- Educate School Staff about Latex Allergies
Before the start of the school year, parents should provide staff members with information about the link between disability and latex allergies. A school nurse, teacher, or counselor can help to communicate the message of latex avoidance to others on staff.
- Identify Areas of Latex Exposure
Latex can be found in classroom supplies, such as erasers, rubber bands, and science lab equipment as well as in gymnasium equipment, such as rubber mats, flooring, balls, and racquet handles. Rubber gloves used by janitors to clean hallways, classrooms, or school bathrooms can leave a residue on surfaces or release latex proteins into the air. School bus tires also can release high levels of airborne latex particles especially during heavy traffic.
- Develop an Emergency Plan
An emergency plan plays an important role in any school safety program. It can help save the life of a latex-sensitive student by enabling school personnel to recognize and treat latex reactions and determine the proper time to call for help.
- Advocate for Social Change
Establish policies to avoid rubber balloons during graduation parties, homecoming dances, and senior proms. Thoughtful planning and minor adjustments, such as substituting mylar for latex balloons will allow students with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or other conditions predisposed to latex allergies to attend school celebrations while being safe. Students with allergies are often subject to bullying. Making school events safe for all students helps to integrate latex-sensitive students into the student body at large and promotes greater understanding and peer acceptance of sensitized students by non-sensitized students.
Here some links where you can find and purchase sports equipment and school and office supplies that are latex-free:
• Sports equipment: http://latexallergyresources.org/consumer-products
• School/office supplies: http://latexallergyresources.org/consumer-products
Adopting “latex-free zones” in school environments is not as easy as it sounds. Commitment and communication efforts from the school community are needed in order to educate individuals about policies established within the school to avoid latex. Typically a “latex-free zone” is associated with extra spending to purchase new materials and to create informative and educational materials regarding latex allergy and policies. Students and teachers are a good resource to drive this information within the school community by creating meetings, newsletters, and newspaper articles. The Chicago Tribune covered the story of Oak Park and River Forest High School. To remind students and to alert visitors of the policy, signs showing balloons with a slash through them were posted throughout the building. Additional information about the ban was added in the first page of the student handbook. The school also sent letters to 18 florists in the area to explain that balloons were not allowed on campus. The physical education department will spent about $1,000 more a year on synthetic silicone swim caps - $1.25 more per cap than the traditional latex caps. Although there may be some hurdles to jump when creating an environment that is inclusive for children with allergies, the inclusive benefits associated with such efforts are larger and more meaningful for the development of all students. If you want students to better understand the issue of food allergies here is video, created by a Northwestern Medicine researchers: