Latex starts with milky sap taken from rubber trees and is then mixed with chemicals to give elasticity. It is commonly found in rubber gloves, dental dams, dressings, syringes, toys, baby bottles, nipples, handbags, balloons, tires, erasers, rubber bands and more.
A person allergic to latex may have sudden allergic reactions when exposed to it or any product containing it. Latex allergies are common in healthcare providers and also to those exposed to latex products regularly or those who have undergone multiple surgeries.
Latex Allergy Symptoms
Latex allergies range from mild to severe. Repeated exposure can worsen the severity of allergic reactions. Immediate reactions may manifest in the following ways:
- itchy skin, rash (such as hives)
- sneezing or running nose
- coughing or wheezing
- itchy throat
- itchy, watery eyes
In addition to these symptoms, a very serious reaction, anaphylaxis, may occur within minutes of exposure. Although rare, anaphylaxis can be life threatening. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- red rash
- swollen throat
- body swelling
- trouble breathing
- chest tightness
- hoarse voice
- trouble swallowing
- passing out
- stomach cramping
Latex Allergy Diagnosis
If you suspect that you’re allergic to latex, contact an allergist. The allergist will take a thorough health history and then use tests to determine your sensitivity to latex (mostly likely through skin scratch or blood tests).
Latex Allergy Management
Latex allergies are rarely life-threatening. The key to preventing the symptoms is to limit exposure as much as possible. Here are some tips:
- Synthetic products like vinyl or nitrile gloves are safer alternatives for people suffering from latex allergy.
- Mild symptoms and skin reactions from latex can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications.
- People at risk of a serious, anaphylactic reaction to latex should carry auto-injectable epinephrine in case of emergency. They should seek medical attention immediately in the event of a serious reaction.
- Guayule, a natural rubber latex from the desert plant, is now used in manufacturing many products. It is a safer alternative for latex allergy
patients and healthcare workers.