Latex Allergy: Symptoms & Management

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.

Latex Allergy

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

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
  • wheezing
  • trouble breathing
  • chest tightness
  • hoarse voice
  • trouble swallowing
  • passing out
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • 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.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.