Latex Allergy FAQ

What causes a latex allergy?

When you have the condition, touching or breathing in latex particles causes your immune system to overreact. Anybody can have a latex allergy. The risk is higher if you work in health care, because being exposed to latex a lot -- in gloves, IV tubing, blood pressure cuffs -- may make you more sensitive to it. A family history of allergies also raises the risk.

What are the common symptoms?

They range from mild to severe, and depend on the amount of latex contact, and the route of exposure. For instance, direct exposure to gloves or latex tubing tends to cause a rash or hives. Powdered latex released from gloves can cause a runny nose, itchy eyes and wheezing. Highly allergic individuals can have an anaphylactic reaction, leading to trouble breathing, nausea and vomiting, and hives or swelling. Anaphylaxis can happen very quickly after a latex exposure and is a true medical emergency.

What should I do during an attack?

For severe allergic reactions, get emergency help immediately. If your doctor gave you epinephrine shots (like an EpiPen), always carry two with you and learn how to use them. For a mild reaction, your doctor may suggest antihistamines, hydrocortisone skin creams, or a prescription inhaler.

Is there a cure for latex allergy?

No. The best thing you can do is stay away from any products that have latex.

Which products should I avoid?

Latex gloves can trigger an allergic reaction, so use non-latex ones for household chores. Also, tell your doctor and dentist about your allergy before any appointments.

Latex can be in:

  • Rubber bands
  • Erasers
  • Toothbrush rubber grips
  • Condoms
  • Rubber bathmats
  • Tires
  • Clothes with elastic or spandex

Is my latex allergy connected to food allergies?

Maybe. Some people with a latex allergy also have a reaction to certain foods, like bananas, avocados, chestnuts, and kiwis. That’s because they contain some of the same allergens that latex does.

How will my doctor diagnose a latex allergy?

He'll talk to you about your medical history, including what allergic reactions you've had and what you think triggered those reactions. He may order lab tests to look for a latex-specific antibody in your blood, or refer you to an allergist, who may do allergy skin testing.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on July 22, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Latex Allergy, Treatment and Management."

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Latex Allergy."

American Latex Allergy Association: "Latex Allergy Checklist."

CDC: "Contact Dermatitis and Latex Allergy."

FamilyDoctor.org: "Latex Allergy - Causes & Risk Factors," "Latex Allergy - Overview," "Latex Allergy - Symptoms."

Medscape Reference: "Latex Allergy, Clinical Presentation," "Latex Allergy, Overview."

New York State Department of Health: "Latex Allergy - Information for Health Professionals."

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