An estimated 8 to 12 percent of health-care workers are sensitive to the powder residue found in latex gloves, which can cause a severe asthma-type reaction.
"Even if you're not using [latex gloves], when I put mine on and take them off in the same room, little bits of latex get in the air and people become allergic to it," Dr. Harber says.
Limiting exposure whenever possible can help. But for doctors and nurses, skipping the use of protective gloves is not always an option. In severe cases, Dr. Harber says, a latex allergy can end careers. Some hospitals like Johns Hopkins have switched to latex-free synthetic gloves.