What is Latex Allergy?
Latex is actually a sap produced by rubber trees. Natural rubber latex is often found in rubber gloves, condoms, balloons, rubber bands, erasers and toys.
- Latex allergies are most common in people who have regular exposure to latex products such as rubber gloves, especially healthcare workers and people who have undergone multiple surgeries.
- Approximately 50% of people with latex allergy will experience cross-reactivity with certain fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, chestnuts, kiwi, avocado and tomato. In this situation, the immune system recognizes the protein in latex as similar to the protein in these foods, resulting in allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions to latex range from mild to very severe. The severity of allergic reactions to latex can worsen with repeated exposure to the substance.
Delayed-type Contact Dermatitis
This condition appears 12 to 36 hours after contact with a latex product. Symptoms may include:
- Red skin
- Scaly skin
- Itchy skin
This type of reaction is usually triggered by the added chemicals in the rubber. Symptoms may be very irritating but typically not life-threatening.
Immediate Allergic Reactions
These reactions occur in people who have been previously exposed to latex and have become sensitized, meaning the immune system is now triggered to respond. With re-exposure to latex, symptoms may include:
- Sneezing or runny nose
- Coughing or wheezing
- Itchy throat
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Anaphylaxis, the most serious and potentially life threatening allergic reaction, involves symptoms that occur within minutes, and often multiple systems in the body.
Be sure to inform all health care providers of a latex allergy before any test or procedure.