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Latex Allergy 

What is latex allergy?

An allergy is an abnormal reaction to a substance that is, as a rule, harmless. A substance that causes a reaction is called an allergen. Some common allergens are pollen, mold, dust, animal hair, feathers, foods, drugs, and insect stings. Natural rubber latex contains a substance that can be an allergen. This substance is called a protein. A latex allergy reaction can be mild, with symptoms such as itchy, red, teary eyes, sneezing, runny nose, or coughing. You may see a rash or hives.  It can also be very severe, with symptoms like chest tightness, shortness of breath, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and even death.

Who Is At Risk For A Latex Allergy?

Latex products are all over. Any person can become allergic to latex. People with the highest risk are those who are often exposed to latex, such as:

  • People who have had many operations, especially in childhood
  • People with Spina Bifida
  • People who chronically use urinary catheters  (use a tube to empty their bladder)
  • Healthcare workers and others who often wear latex gloves
  • People who have other allergies

What is Latex?

Natural rubber latex is a milky fluid produced by rubber trees. This liquid is used to make many rubber products we use at home and at work.  Some examples of these rubber products are:

  • Balloons
  • Rubber toys
  • Pacifiers and baby bottle nipples  
  • Rubber bands
  • Computer mouse pad s
  • Tape and bandages  
  • Diapers
  • Condoms

Also, be aware many medical and dental supplies contain latex.

What Latex Products Cause Allergic Reactions?

Dipped latex products, mainly gloves, balloons and condoms, cause allergic reactions most often. Products made from hard rubber, such as tires and soles of shoes, are less likely to cause reactions. Most latex paints are not a problem since they do not contain natural latex.

Is There A Link Between Latex Allergy And Foods?

Because some proteins in rubber are like some food proteins, some foods may cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to latex. The most common of these foods are banana, avocado, chestnut, kiwi fruit and tomato.

What Should I Do If I Think I Have A Latex Allergy?

See a doctor. The best option is to see a doctor who specializes in allergies and who has knowledge about treating latex allergy. Your doctor will take a detailed history and may confirm that you have a latex allergy with a blood test. 

What Should I Do If I Find Out I Have A Latex Allergy?

  • Avoid contact with latex products as much as you can.

  • Take steps to find out which products you use or are around you that contain latex.

  • Find other products that you can use that do not contain latex.

  • Obtain a medic alert bracelet that clearly states your allergy.

  • Talk to your doctor about getting an epi-pen to use in case of a severe reaction. 

  • You may wish to carry gloves without latex with you all the time for use by emergency staff if you need medical help.

  • Tell your family, friends, boss, others you work with and all your health care providers about your latex allergy.

Thanks to Lisa JenningsAssistant Nurse Manager  
of the Drucker Brain Injury Center at MossRehab Hospital 
Lisa Peck RN, BS, CRRN, Staff Development Instructor
 for providing this information. 

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