Latex is derived from the sap of the rubber tree and then processed to increase elasticity, durability and strength. Many products are made from latex, including dummies for babies, rubber bands, balloons, shoe soles, condoms, gloves, catheters and stethoscopes.
Latex allergy develops after some contact with latex. Rubber gloves are the main source of sensitization and allergic reactions. A certain part of the latex substance itself is an allergen for many people. The powder in latex gloves is an airborne allergen that can also cause airway symptoms in some people with latex allergy.
Causes of latex allergy
The exact cause of latex allergy is unknown, but it is thought that repeated exposure to latex and rubber products may provoke sensitization and symptoms.
People at risk of latex allergy
People at increased risk for developing latex allergy include:
Symptoms of latex allergy
- Children with spina bifida
- Children with certain congenital urologic abnormalities
- People who use latex gloves at work, such as workers in healthcare, dentistry, animal laboratories, and veterinary medicine
- Workers in the rubber industry
- People with a history of multiple surgical procedures
- People with known food allergies to banana, avocado, kiwi or chestnuts
- People with family history of allergies, asthma, or eczema
The symptoms range in severity depending on the individual, but can include:
Patients with latex allergy typically develop symptoms in response to wearing latex gloves and get a skin rash in the areas covered by the gloves.
Treatment options for latex allergy
Unfortunately, there is no cure for latex allergy
. Constant exposure to latex can exaggerate the immune system response, so avoidance is the best way to manage the condition. Suggestions include:
- Choose synthetic rubber products
- Change career if your profession involves unavoidable exposure to latex
- Consider alternative forms of contraception to condoms. Non-latex condoms are available from pharmacists and other retailers
- Always tell your healthcare professional that you are allergic to latex before undergoing any procedure
- Avoid foods that stimulate symptoms
- Always carry a self-injectable syringe of adrenaline in case you experience anaphylaxis
are rarely life-threatening. The key to preventing the symptoms is to limit your exposure as much as possible. This can be easier said than done if you are exposed to latex for work. Still, you can avoid symptoms without changing your lifestyle if you take a few extra precautions. Take medical help if your allergy is severe.