What is a latex allergy?
Natural rubber latex is a milky fluid found in rubber trees. There is a protein in the fluid that can cause allergic reactions in some people. Some gloves, condoms, balloons, rubber bands, erasers, and toys are made using this natural rubber latex. Reactions to latex products occur when it comes in contact with the person's skin, mucous membranes (like the nostrils, mouth, or rectum), or the bloodstream (during surgery). For example, some people may react when blowing up a rubber balloon or breathing in powder from the inside of latex gloves.
What are the symptoms of a latex allergy?
Symptoms of latex allergy include:
In some cases, severe reactions (anaphylactic shock) can occur and cause:
Severe reactions require prompt emergency treatment.
Who is at risk for developing latex allergy?
People who have frequent exposure to latex from medical procedures are at greater risk for developing latex allergy. They include:
Children with spina bifida
Children born with defects of the urinary system
Children or adults who have had many surgeries
People who have allergies to certain foods may also have latex allergies. The foods include: bananas, avocados, chestnuts, kiwi, passion fruit, papaya, figs, peaches, nectarines, plums, tomatoes, and celery.
What should you avoid if you have latex allergy?
Many items are made from latex. These include:
Pacifiers, bottle nipples
Raincoats, rain boots
Surgical and exam gloves
IV tubing injection sites
Blood pressure cuffs
... and many more items
There are items that can be used in place of the items that contain latex. They are made from vinyl, plastic, or silicone.
If you are allergic to latex
Try to avoid all latex products. Use items that do not have latex in them.
If you need surgery or a procedure, talk to your health care provider about what you can do to prevent exposure and reactions to latex.
Wear a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace with information about your allergy.
Carry a pair of nonlatex gloves with you, information about latex allergies, and/or a note from your doctor.
Be sure medical and school records have a latex allergy alert.
For a child with a latex allergy, teach him or her to know and avoid latex products.
Ask your health care provider about self-injecting epinephrine (or Epi-pens). Have them at home, in the car, at school, day care, and work.
Know what to do in case of an emergency. Discuss this with your child's provider and school nurse (for a child with a latex allergy).
Avoiding latex may decrease the chance of children developing this allergy.
- Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
- MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician