Latex is natural rubber, a product made primarily from the rubber
tree, Hevea brasiliensis. Some people develop allergic
reactions after repeated contact with latex, especially latex gloves. Allergy
to latex is an increasing health problem.
What are the symptoms?
Latex reactions can vary from minor to life-threatening, or they
may progress from a less serious reaction to a more serious one. Examples
reactions. A person who is having a mild respiratory reaction may sneeze,
cough, or have a runny nose. A person who is having a severe respiratory
reaction may develop shortness of breath from swelling of the throat (angioedema) or severe wheezing (allergic asthma).
Latex allergy usually affects people who are routinely exposed to
rubber products, such as health care workers and rubber industry workers, and
people who have had multiple surgeries or multiple medical procedures in which
latex equipment and supplies were used.
What increases the risk of latex allergy?
People who have allergies to foods, such as bananas, chestnuts,
kiwifruit, avocados, and tomatoes, have an increased risk of developing latex
allergy. People with latex allergies may develop allergies to these foods
because the protein in these foods is similar to the protein in rubber. Latex
allergies are also more common in people who have a history of
atopic dermatitis, a skin condition that causes
intense itching and a red, raised rash.
Where is latex likely to be encountered?
Medical products that may contain latex include:
Gloves, especially powdered latex
Drains, tourniquets, urinary catheters, and
Adhesives used for dressings and tapes.
Personal or household products that may contain latex
Latex allergy is diagnosed with a thorough medical history,
physical exam, and tests. Tests may include a blood test to detect latex
antibodies and glove-use tests and skin tests to detect an adverse reaction to
latex exposure. Glove-use tests and skin tests should always be done by health
professionals who are experienced and equipped to respond to a serious
How is it treated?
Some medications may help reduce the allergy symptoms, but complete
latex avoidance, though difficult, is the most effective treatment. Serious
reactions may need to be treated in a hospital emergency department.
If you have had a previous serious reaction to latex, you should
carry and know how to use an allergy kit, which contains an injection of
How can I avoid using products containing latex if I have a known latex allergy?
Avoid any skin contact with latex products.
Health care workers should use hypoallergenic nonlatex
Avoid breathing the air where powdered latex gloves are
being used. The latex particles in the gloves stick to the cornstarch used to
powder the gloves. When the cornstarch flies through the air, it can be
inhaled, causing a lung reaction.
Primary Medical Reviewer
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
April 8, 2013
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
April 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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