Definition

What is Latex allergy?

Latex is a natural rubber made from the milky sap of the Brazilian rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis. Latex is a common component of many medical and dental supplies. These include disposable gloves, dental dams, airway and intravenous tubing, syringes, stethoscopes, catheters, dressings and bandages. Latex also is found in many consumer products. These include condoms, handbags, balloons, athletic shoes, tires, tools, underwear leg and waistbands, rubber toys, baby bottles, nipples and pacifiers. Similar proteins are even found in popular foods.

Latex allergy refers to allergic reactions to latex.

Latex cross-reactivity with certain foods

ome people with a latex allergy may also be allergic to certain foods that contain proteins similar to those in latex. This is known as cross-reactivity.

Fruits and vegetables

The following foods may cause a cross-reaction in some people. Different foods have different degrees of association with cross-reaction.

Foods with a high association:

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Kiwis
  • Foods with a moderate association:
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Papayas
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes

Foods with a low association:

  • Cherries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Nectarines
  • Pineapples
  • Strawberries
  • Plums

Other foods

It’s also important to be cautious of these other potentially cross-reactive foods:

  • Tree nuts and legumes including almonds, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts
  • Grains including wheat and rye
  • Shellfish including crab, lobster, and shrimp

How common is Latex allergy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, latex allergies affect 1 to 6 percent of Americans. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Latex allergy?

Allergic reactions to latex most often take the form of a rash at the point of contact, known as contact dermatitis. Signs may include:

  • Itchy hands
  • Skin rash that may be warm to the touch
  • Hives
  • Eczema (denoted as weeping or cracking skin)

Such reactions are usually temporary. They may begin within minutes of exposure but may also take several hours to develop. You may need hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to soothe any rashes that develop.

Latex proteins can sometimes become airborne. When this happens, a hypersensitive person may unknowingly breathe them in and develop more severe reactions. These can include:

  • Swollen and red skin, lips, or tongue
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Shortness of breath (with or without wheezing)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness

Anaphylaxis is a rare reaction to latex, and it can be life-threatening. The symptoms are similar to airborne sensitivities but much more severe. Anaphylactic shock can cause severe breathing difficulties, decreased blood pressure, or even death if untreated.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you or your loved one has any signs or symptoms listed above or you have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Latex allergy?

An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to a normally harmless substance as if it were an invader, such as a virus or bacteria. A host of antibodies and chemicals including antihistamines are released, racing to the point of invasion where they cause an inflammatory immune response.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Latex allergy?

The number of healthcare workers affected by latex allergies is much higher than average. In fact, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that between 8 and 17 percent of all healthcare workers have the allergy. The increased use and exposure to latex is thought to be the main reason for the higher rates in this group.

Others who are at increased risk include:

  • Those with food-related cross-allergies
  • Hairdressers
  • Children who have spina bifida or who have had multiple surgeries
  • People who require frequent medical procedures such as catheterization
  • Childcare providers
  • Food service workers
  • Housekeepers
  • People who work in rubber manufacturing or tire factories

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Latex allergy diagnosed?

Latex allergy is diagnosed by an allergy blood test.

How is Latex allergy treated?

There is no cure for a latex allergy, so the best treatment is avoidance. For mild reactions, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines to treat your symptoms. If you have a severe allergy to latex, injectable epinephrine can be used to prevent anaphylaxis.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Latex allergy?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Latex allergy:

  • People with the condition should avoid food that causes an allergic reaction.
  • 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. Latex allergic people can receive medical or dental care in a latex-safe area.
  • Hospitals and clinics that use only low protein latex gloves and non-latex gloves have experienced dramatic declines in new cases of latex allergy.
  • Health care workers with a history of latex sensitivity who must wear gloves should stop wearing latex gloves. Their co-workers should also not use latex gloves, but rather switch to synthetic gloves.
  • Patients with latex allergy are at risk of asthma on exposure to latex-containing aerosols. They should try to avoid areas where powdered latex gloves or other latex products are used.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: February 9, 2018 | Last Modified: February 9, 2018

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