Latex gloves and other latex rubber materials, contain natural latex. These gloves are often added with cornstarch powder to reduce friction, like when a surgeon dons the glove and many other chemicals. It is important to point out that anything that is foreign to the body can cause an allergic reaction depending on the gravity of the human body's response to it. The body can react in different ways. Normally, there would be little to no reaction at all. However when one is allergic to the latex, in a glove for example, there are three major possible reactions.
The least dangerous of these is a reaction that is contained locally, called Irritant Dermatitis. This is when the latex causes an irritation in the skin in contact to it but does not involve the systemic immune response of the body. This is not considered an allergic response, however, irritant hand dermatitis causes breaks in the skin integrity which could permit a lot more of the sensitizing latex proteins or chemicals to enter into the body. This could turn an uncomplicated dermatitis into a full blown latex allergy. Irritant Dermatitis could also be caused by inadequate drying after washing the hands, scrubbing the skin too hard or using very strong detergents, the mechanical abrasion sometimes caused by the glove powder, or anything that could dry the skin and encourage cracks and cuts in it.
The second reaction that the body could have is the Delayed Cutaneous Hypersensitivity or the Type IV Allergy. This reaction is still local, limited to the skin exposed to the allergen and mediated by the T-cell lymphocytes. The danger, again, is when the skin breaks and permits the entry of more of the allergen. The difference of this reaction is that the signs of the reaction are seen 6 to 48 hours after exposure.
The third possible reaction of the body is the Type I Allergy. It is a systemic allergic reaction and its symptoms occur almost immediately or half an hour after exposure to latex. The reaction is caused by the Immunoglobulin E antibodies that are specific to the proteins found in natural latex. A person can be exposed to latex through different routes like cutaneous, (skin), mucus membranes (nose, mouth), aerosol (inhalation), or parenteral (blood). The symptoms could range from a not-so-serious case of rhinitis or conjunctivitis to hives and asthma brought about by bronchoconstriction. It is when these symptoms are full-blown than they become fatal like cases of hypotension and anaphylaxis.
In the use of surgical gloves, it is not only the latex that is the issue. The use of cornstarch powder, which has been a staple in glove manufacturing to reduce friction, also plays a major role in the allergies caused by latex gloves. Research has shown that the cornstarch powder binds with the latex proteins in the gloves. This union allows the antigen in the gloves to reach the wearer's skin (especially when the skin becomes moist) and, ultimately, the patient the person is in contact with. Also, when the gloves are removed, the cornstarch powder is released into the air carrying with it the latex proteins. This is the major factor that causes most of the aerosolized latex allergies.