Latex Allergy

A latex allergy results from the body’s reaction to proteins found in natural rubber latex (derived from the sap of a Brazilian rubber tree). The immune systems of certain sensitized people view the proteins as enemies and produce antibodies to fight them, creating a range of symptoms from hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Symptoms

The allergic reaction depends on an individual’s level of sensitivity to latex, as well as the degree of contact. The reaction can worsen each time someone encounters latex, so a mild first reaction could be followed by moderate or even severe symptoms next time. Symptoms typically manifest after touching products containing latex but can also develop after inhalation of latex particles in the air.

On the mild end of the spectrum, latex allergy symptoms include itching, hives (urticaria), or skin redness.

Patients with more severe latex allergies may experience some of the following:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cramps

Anaphylaxis, the most severe allergic reaction to latex, is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical care. It rarely occurs upon first exposure to latex. Signs of anaphylaxis are:

  • Severe breathing difficulty
  • Shock
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hives or swelling
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Wheezing

While latex allergy symptoms are systemic and can become dangerous, allergic contact dermatitis is a less serious (yet aggravating) reaction that causes a poison ivy-like rash on the hands one to three days after wearing latex gloves.

Causes

Researchers have not pinpointed precisely why latex allergies occur. They do understand that the more often someone is exposed to latex, the worse the allergic response is likely to be (a process called sensitization). This explains why latex allergies occur at a higher rate in healthcare workers and other fields in which latex products are prevalent.

  • While no exhaustive list exists, the following are some of the everyday items that may include latex:
  • Gloves
  • Balloons
  • Condoms
  • Toys
  • Adhesives
  • Rubber bands
  • Shoe soles
  • Pacifiers and bottle nipples
  • Erasers
  • Elastic
  • Spandex
  • Medical supplies such as bandages, catheters, and stethoscopes

Surprisingly, a person with a latex allergy has a greater chance of also being allergic to some foods, including banana, avocado, kiwi, chestnut, apple, melon, carrot, papaya, tomato, celery, and potato (among others with suspected cross-reactivity).

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

The specialists at Greater Austin Allergy will help you navigate the road toward a possible latex allergy diagnosis. A detailed discussion of latex exposure, symptom history, and other allergies start the process. Testing options include a blood test and a patch test.

A latex allergy cannot be cured, and no treatment can help desensitize those who receive a latex allergy diagnosis. We will educate you on how to avoid both obvious and hidden sources of latex in your environment.

Latex Allergy Facts

  • Latex allergy is a serious concern for employers and workers in the health-care industry and in sectors like law enforcement, fire fighting, food preparation, and hair care.

    Source: www.cdc.gov
  • Synthetic rubber products, including “latex” house paints, are not made with natural latex and do not trigger allergic reactions in people who are allergic to products made with natural rubber latex.

    Source: acaai.org
  • Up to 68% of children with spina bifida have a latex allergy (due to frequent surgeries).\

    Source: latexallergyresources.org