Allergy to Natural Rubber (Latex) - Topic Overview
What is latex allergy?
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
- Skin reactions such as
hives, or generalized itching.
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).
allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). For more information, see the Check Your Symptoms section of the topic Allergic Reaction.
Who is affected by latex allergy?
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:
- Drains, tourniquets, urinary catheters, and
- Adhesives used for dressings and tapes.
Personal or household products that may contain latex
- Contraceptives, such as condoms or
- Diapers and sanitary pads.
- Pacifiers and
baby bottle nipples.
- Balloons and rubber toys.
- Computer mouse pads.
How is latex allergy diagnosed?
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 doctors who are experienced and equipped to respond to a serious