BLOG 3: Latex and latex-free bandages

BLOG 3: Latex and latex-free bandages

Latex in bandages has been a common compound for many years, but over the last few decades its use has been declining. The main problem with latex is that it provokes an allergic reaction in some people, causing serious harm that may even produce asphyxia in some rare cases.

Bandages with latex

Latex is a derivative of natural rubber that contains certain enzymes that can be allergic to a certain percentage of the population. In the last two decades, latex allergy has become a health problem of worldwide relevance. It has been estimated that between 0.3 and 1% of the general population is allergic to this substance. In most cases, this allergy generates a very mild reaction with itching or reddening of the skin, but in a small percentage of cases the patient may suffer an anaphylactic reaction that may even result in death.

In other countries there are specific products with latex, but in Spain, as well as in the rest of Europe, the authorities are trying to phase it out. What latex provides are certain properties that are very desirable in the manufacturing of some bandages:

  • Elasticity: latex is found in some natural yarns such as rubber and these yarns have good elasticity.
  • Cohesiveness: latex has the property that it adheres to itself but not to skin or tissues, allowing a more stable, durable and consistent hold and support, while permitting the removal of the bandage to be easy and painless.
  • Compactness: in some bandages such as plaster casts, latex is used to provide consistency and allow for a more rigid bandage.

Latex is still used in the veterinary field, which does not impose a specific “latex-free” rule, unlike the healthcare sector.

Latex-free bandages

To avoid using elastic yarns containing natural rubber and latex, the Dupont company developed a very thin but highly elastic yarn: elastane or spandex. This yarn is the latex-free version of the rubber yarns used years ago. To learn more about the yarns most commonly used in the manufacture of bandages, visit our post: What types of yarns are used in bandages?

Regarding the manufacture of cohesive bandages, the transition has also been progressive but steady. Currently, to replace latex, several latex-free components are being used, such as polyisoprene, which, although it endows the bandages with the same cohesive properties, being synthetic it does not contain latex.

As we have been able to appreciate in this post, the use of latex is being phased out, especially in the medical sector and for bandages for humans. In the next post we will discuss different types of bandages, noting the presence or absence of this component, as it has become a very important characteristic to consider.

Prepared by the technical department of Calvo Izquierdo S.L.

with the collaboration of Carmen Alba Moratilla

Bibliography