In recent years, serious allergic reactions to latex have been more common. In rare cases, these reactions can be fatal. People with allergy to latex should limit or eliminate future exposure to latex products.
People who are at high risk for developing latex allergy include:
- Health care workers and others who frequently wear latex gloves
- Individuals who have multiple surgical procedures, such as children with spina bifida
- Individuals with other allergies, such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or allergy to certain foods
Latex allergy symptoms
In most cases, latex allergy develops after many exposures to latex. Latex allergy can cause symptoms of stuffy nose, hives, wheezing and difficulty breathing. The most severe cases can result in anaphylaxis, a very severe allergic reaction that affects many parts of the body all at one time.
Allergic skin problems can occur following direct contact with or latex. Latex Allergy symptoms may include itching, redness and swelling of that part of the skin that touched the item containing latex.
Some skin problems resulting from the use of latex and non-latex gloves are often confused with latex allergy. These local skin problems are not life threatening, but may develop into latex allergy if latex exposure is continued.
Direct physical contact with latex products is not needed to trigger an allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis has resulted from inhaling latex proteins in the air resulting from the powder in the latex glove.
Latex allergy diagnosis
Latex allergy can most often be diagnosed by an allergy blood test. When the blood test is negative, some allergy specialists may be able to perform latex allergy skin testing.
Latex allergy treatment
The best treatment for latex allergy is avoidance. People with severe latex allergy should:
- Wear a warning bracelet
- Carry a syringe filled with epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector for emergency treatment
Health care workers with a history of latex sensitivity who must wear gloves should stop wearing latex gloves, and their co-workers should not use powdered gloves.
Patients with latex allergy are at risk of asthma on exposure to latex-containing aerosols and should try to avoid areas where powdered latex gloves or their products are used.
What is natural rubber latex?
Natural rubber latex comes from a tree, Hevea brasiliensis, found in Africa and Southeast Asia. Natural rubber latex should not be confused with synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubber products, including latex house paints, are not dangerous for people who are allergic to natural rubber latex.
What products contain natural rubber latex?
Latex is a common component of many medical and dental supplies, including disposable gloves, dental dams, airway and intravenous tubing, syringes, stethoscopes, catheters, dressings and bandages.
Latex also is found in many consumer products, including condoms, balloons, athletic shoes, tires, tools, underwear leg and waistbands, rubber toys, baby bottles, nipples and pacifiers.
What triggers the allergic reaction to latex?
When latex allergic individuals come into direct contact with latex, an allergic reaction may follow. Common examples include:
- Receiving medical care or dental care from someone wearing latex gloves
- Blowing up a latex balloon
What foods are potential problems for people with latex allergy?
Latex allergic people also can have food allergies. The foods causing this problem include: apple, almonds, avocado, banana, carrot, celery, chestnut, hazelnut, kiwi, melons, papaya, pear, raw potato, stone fruits (such as peach, plum and cherry) and tomato.
How can latex allergy be prevented?
People with latex allergy should avoid direct contact with all products and devices that contain latex. Latex allergy problems during dental, medical or surgical procedures can be prevented by warning health care providers about latex allergy before any test or treatment. When latex allergic individuals need medical or dental care, the procedures can be conducted in a latex-free area.
Allergy specialists can provide latex-allergic people with information and assistance to help them avoid products which may contain latex. For additional patient information, call the American Latex Allergy Association at (888) 972-5378 or visit: