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    Are You Allergic to Latex?

    Some people are allergic to latex, which is found in rubber gloves and other products, such as condoms and some medical devices.

    Doctors don’t know what causes it. Coming in contact with latex and rubber products over and over may be part of the reason why it happens.

    Who Is Affected?

    About 5% to 10% of health care workers have some form the allergy.

    Other people who are more likely than most people to get it include those who have:

    • A defect in their bone marrow cells
    • A deformed bladder or urinary tract
    • Had more than one operation
    • A urinary catheter, which has a rubber tip
    • Allergy, asthma, or eczema
    • Food allergies to bananas, avocados, kiwis, or chestnuts

    Rubber industry workers and people who use condoms are also more likely than others to get a latex allergy.

    You can get exposed to latex:

    • Through the skin, such as when you wear latex gloves
    • Through mucous membranes, such as the eyes, mouth, vagina, and rectum
    • Through inhalation. Rubber gloves contain a powder that can be inhaled.
    • Through the blood. This can happen when some medical devices containing rubber are used.

    Types

    There are three types of latex reactions:

    1. Irritant contact dermatitis . This is the least-threatening type, and it’s not an allergic skin reaction. It usually happens due to repeated exposure to chemicals in latex gloves and leads to dryness, itching, burning, scaling, and skin problems.

    2. Allergic contact dermatitis . This is a delayed reaction to additives used in latex processing. It results in the same type of reactions as irritant contact dermatitis. But the reaction is more severe, spreads to more parts of the body, and lasts longer. Symptoms can start up to 4 days after you've come in contact with latex.

    3. Immediate allergic reaction (latex hypersensitivity). This one is the most serious. It can show up as a nasal allergy with hay fever-like symptoms, conjunctivitis (pink eye), cramps, hives, and severe itching. It’s rare, but symptoms may also include rapid heartbeat, tremors, chest pain, trouble breathing, low blood pressure, or anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.

    If you have severe symptoms, call your doctor or 911 immediately, or go to the nearest emergency room.

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