Latex Allergy

What is a latex allergy?

Natural rubber latex, a milky fluid found in rubber trees, has a contaminating protein in the rubber that causes allergic reactions, not with the rubber itself. Different types of gloves, condoms, balloons, rubber bands, erasers, and toys are made from natural rubber latex. Children and adults have developed an allergy or sensitivity to latex. Reactions can be seen when products made from latex come in contact with the person's skin, mucous membranes (like the mouth, genitals, bladder or rectum), or the bloodstream (during surgery). 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?

When the person has contact with products that contain latex you may see watery or itchy eyes, wheezing, hives, flushing or a skin rash, itching, or swelling. In some cases, severe reactions ("anaphylactic shock") can occur in which the person may have problems breathing, experience chest tightness, or have swelling of his/her throat or tongue. Severe reactions require prompt emergency treatment.

Who is at risk for developing latex allergy?

Some people are more likely to become latex sensitive. These are people who have frequent exposure to latex from medical procedures. This group includes:

  • children with spina bifida
  • children born with urologic anomalies
  • children or adults who have had many surgeries

People who have allergies to certain foods may also have a latex allergy. Both the foods and the latex may have some of the same proteins. Commonly eaten foods which contain some of the same proteins as latex include: bananas, avocados, chestnuts, kiwi, passion fruit, papaya, figs, peaches, nectarines, plums, tomatoes, and celery.

What to avoid if allergic to latex?

Many items at home and in the hospital are made from latex. These include:

Home and Community Hospital
Balloons (excluding mylar)

Koosh balls, rubber balls

Pacifiers, bottle nipples

Condoms, diaphragms

Beach toys, art supplies

Rubber bands, Band-Aids

Wheelchair tires

Raincoats

Disposable diapers

Chux©

Surgical and exam gloves

IV tubing injection sites

Catheters

Adhesive tape

Electrode pads

Blood pressure cuffs

Tourniquets

Stethoscopes

... and many more items

Any item that is light brown in color and can be stretched may contain latex. 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:

  • Avoid ALL latex products at home and in the hospital. Use items that do not have latex in them.
  • Ask your physician to evaluate you for pre-medication before surgery to help prevent a reaction.
  • Use a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace.
  • Carry a pair of non-latex gloves with you, information about latex allergies, and/or a note from your physician.
  • Be sure hospital and school (for a child with a latex allergy) records have a latex allergy alert.
  • For a child with a latex allergy, teach him/her child to know and avoid latex products.
  • Ask your physician about the use of injectable epinephrine. Have it available for yourself and your child in all surroundings (at home, in the car, at daycare, or at work)
  • Know what to do in case of an emergency. Discuss this with your child's physician and school nurse (for a child with a latex allergy).
  • Avoid areas where you may inhale latex molecules from healthcare workers.

Please note: Avoiding latex products may decrease the chance of developing this allergy for your child.

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