For 20 years the American Latex Allergy Association has been dedicated to spreading awareness and helping those who suffer from latex allergies. At the front lines of this battle is Sue Lockwood, co-founder and latex allergy sufferer, Sue has dedicated the last 20 years to spreading awareness and stomping misconceptions about latex allergies.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss latex allergies, high risk area's, and common misconceptions about the allergy with Sue.
Almost 20 years ago Sue was a diagnosed with a severe latex allergy. She first noticed her allergy at her job as a surgical technician in a hospital. She soon realized only at work she suffered from hives, itching and swelling of her hands, eyes etc. After seeing an allergist, Lockwood lost her career, being unable to wear powdered latex gloves. She was moved to a new department but soon realized that the allergen was airborne the second a gloved was snapped onto a hand, causing her to react. Upon realizing how severe her allergy was she was forced to leave her chosen profession.
According to Lockwood, the airborne allergen people suffer from is derived from the powder within the latex. snapping a band,glove, or balloon, produces the allergen in the air causing a reaction. Not all latex allergies are topical, meaning they do not always produce a rash or skin based reaction. Many latex allergies are diagnosed anaphylactic.
Sue faced with a dilemma, but instead of focusing on the bad, she decided to turn her situation in her favor. Around the time she was diagnosed with this allergen, Lockwood began a support group with 30 individuals who suffered from the same allergen. The group shared everything and supported each other with facts and information about a not so common allergen.
She soon saw the importance of this group and the need for information on an allergen commonly misconceived. So, she co-founded The American Latex Allergy Association an association dedicated to bringing awareness and helping squash misconceptions about latex allergies.
Over the past 20 years ALAA has developed fact sheets, travel tips, hospital check lists, posters, reaction posters, to help inform those diagnosed with latex allergies.
The website proves to be truly effective, making connections to foods and other items related to and may cause allergic reactions. Foods such as kiwi, banana's,avocados, and stone fruit, are linked to latex allergies and should be avoided.
ALAA also helps identify common latex products and cross reactive foods.
Sue and her members are constantly advertising latex free products, answers to questions, and helping connect people to allergists and experts in their area.
One of the most important aspects of the ALAA and the information Lockwood generates for the public is the active awareness and prevention in high risk areas. Hospitals, can still a high risk zone even though they are predominantly latex free. When admitted to the hospital or before check-ups and surgery, make sure you make your allergen known. Ask them about their latex policy, and request a allergen free environment. You need to speak with confidence and authority, have all your facts and needs in order to be taken seriously. If you treat your allergy with respect, other will as well.
Another high risk place for adults is a tattoo shop. Most artists choose latex gloves for the close fit. Much like hospitals, calling ahead proves to be beneficial and bringing your own gloves will put you at ease.
Balloons are known to have latex, if you suffer from a allergy, avoid blowing them up or touching them.
Their travel tips and checklists is one of the most useful pieces of advice on their website. This tool helps teach safety, precaution, and action. It also creates comfortable phrases, and identification (bracelets, information etc) for those new to the allergen. It acts as the perfect reminder to help put your mind at ease.
The American Latex Allergy Association is celebrating its 20 anniversary this year. To commemorate this event they are holding events during October 6-12 featuring*
- Informative web-based presentations for all those interested in latex allergy, healthcare and school professionals
- Seminar/Hands-on workshop for healthcare providers
- Community festival for the general community, patients, families, and all those who care about them
Sue Lockwood has played the best possible hand from the cards life has dealt her. Overcoming a huge roadblock in her career to create a highly successful and equally passionate organization dedicated to helping others with latex allergy. For all they do, and everything Sue had to give up to gain this achievement, all I can say is thank you.
If you would like to know more about the 20th anniversary celebration, we will have updates and more information as it comes up, or check out ALAA's website for updates.
If you would like to get in touch with the American Latex Allergy Association:
Facebook: The ALAA
Website: The ALAA