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Latex allergy concerns

When a Tulsa mother called 911, she says paramedics were not prepared to take care of her daughter. Now she wants to see changes in the way first responders deal with those like her daughter who have latex allergies.

News on 6 reporter Jennifer Loren explains.

Bernice Blanchard: "I was scared." Bernice has a 24-year-old daughter, Courtney, who is severely allergic to latex. Recently she fell and injured her face. When first responders arrived, they were wearing latex gloves.

Courtney’s sister Emily Blanchard: "And I yelled at them over the noise of the fire truck that my sister was highly-allergic to latex." Paramedics had to proceed without gloves. Tulsa Fire Captain Larry Bowles: "They did what they had to do in the emergency situation."

While latex allergies are very rare, Courtney's are also very serious. Bernice Blanchard: "We were told she could go into anaphylactic shock which is difficulty with swallowing and breathing."

So Bernice is trying to convince first responders that they must carry non-latex gloves. "That's all! I mean, I want my daughter to be safe in this city wherever she is."

The Tulsa Fire Department says they've never carried latex-free gloves, but now they say they're taking steps to change that. Captain Larry Bowles: "Immediately we have purchased some latex-free gloves and assigned them to the companies around her home that may possibly respond to a medical emergency there." But a spokesman for EMSA says they rarely see serious latex allergies. Plus they're prepared to treat any allergic reactions. Even so, they say they have changed to some latex-free products. EMSA’s Aaron Howell: "We took a few steps, replaced some of the IV tubing, some of the oxygen tubing.” But they didn't switch to latex-free gloves because they say the real latex is much stronger.

But if these types of allergies become more prevalent, EMSA says they will update to latex-free. Aaron Howell: "We're going to do what's necessary to take care of the public."

Bernice hopes others with latex allergies will come forward to stress the importance of latex-free products on fire trucks and ambulances.
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