Latex Allergy

A latex allergy is an allergic reaction to materials in natural latex. The central source of latex allergic reactions is rubber gloves, even though latex is also used in other products such as condoms and some medical equipment and supplies. Latex is a milky liquid produced by rubber trees. The liquid is mixed together with additional substances during manufacturing to give latex its flexible quality. Natural latex is frequently found in rubber gloves, condoms, balloons, rubber bands, erasers and various toys.

Those suffering with a latex allergy will make the body's immune system treat latex as an allergen, causing an allergic reaction. Latex allergies are commonly found in people who have regular contact to latex products such as rubber gloves. That is why this allergy is most widespread among healthcare employees and people who have undergone several surgeries. Given the possibility for a severe allergic reaction, appropriate diagnosis of latex allergy is vital. An allergist/immunologist has expert training and knowledge to precisely diagnose an allergy to help prevent allergic reactions and help alleviate symptoms of a existing reaction.

Who is at risk?

The cause of latex allergies is unidentified, but it is possible that recurring contact to latex and rubber products may provoke symptoms. About 5% to 10% of health care employees have some form of latex allergy.

It has been suggested that almost 50% of people with latex allergy have a history of an additional kind of allergy. Fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, chestnuts, kiwi, avocado and tomato can be capable of causing allergic symptoms in some latex-sensitive persons.

Individuals working as health care employees are not the only people at risk for developing a latex allergy. Those suffering with a deficiency in their bone marrow cells, deformed bladder or urinary tract, history of several surgeries, asthma, or eczema and those with food allergies to bananas, avocados, kiwis, or chestnuts.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction

Allergic responses to latex range from mild to extremely severe. There are hundreds of cases of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic response, each year due to a latex allergy. A delayed reaction to latex consists of irritated, red and slightly inflamed rashes that become visible only at the sites of contact with the latex product. These rashes usually appear within 12 to 24 hours prior to exposure, and are not life threatening. These reactions are comparable to those caused by poison ivy, and caused by the additional chemicals used in the production of latex, rather than the latex protein itself.

An immediate latex allergic reaction are serious reactions occurring within minutes of exposure and may lead to hives, itching at the location of contact or throughout the entire body, tightening of the throat, wheezing, trouble breathing, anaphylaxis and in some cases death. These reactions only occur upon contact with a latex product.


Following the diagnosis of an allergy to latex, averting is the best way to avoid reactions. The decision to use latex-free contraceptive diaphragms or condoms will greatly reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.

The decision to carry Epinephrine for self-administration and the use of antihistamines should also be considered. It is also recommended to examine the home for rubber articles, such as gloves, rubber bands and erasers.

An individuals' doctor, dentist as well as anyone who may be wearing rubber gloves when in contact with the individual must be informed of the allergy and asked to use a different form of hand protection.

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