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Latex Allergy FAQs

By

Sarah Lewis, PharmD

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

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PHYSICIAN CONTRIBUTOR

What I Tell Parents About Treatment for Anaphylaxis

Knowing your child is at risk for anaphylaxis is stressful. But you can be prepared.
latex gloves

1. What is a latex allergy?

A latex allergy is a reaction to a protein in natural latex, which comes from the sap of the Brazilian rubber tree. A wide variety of products contain natural latex, including:

  • Balloons

  • Bandages

  • Clothing waistbands

  • Condoms and diaphragms

  • Diapers, bottle nipples, and pacifiers

  • Medical and dental supplies

  • Rubber bands, gloves and toys

  • Sanitary pads

People who have a latex allergy react upon exposure to latex in these products. Their immune systems are over-sensitive and respond abnormally to a harmless substance. Some people are so sensitive they react from breathing in latex particles.

Anaphylaxis can be frightening, but being prepared will help you feel empowered to prevent a dangerous allergic reaction. Do you know all the facts?

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 6, 2015

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

It’s important to note that synthetic latex doesn’t cause a reaction because it doesn’t come from the Brazilian rubber tree. Products like latex paint contain synthetic latex.

2. What are the symptoms of a latex allergy?

Symptoms of latex allergy range from mild to severe, including:

  • Chest tightness

  • Coughing

  • Itchy, watery eyes

  • Rash or hives

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sneezing or runny nose

People who are highly allergic to latex are at risk of developing anaphylaxis—a life-threatening allergic reaction. Seek emergency medical care for anaphylactic symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing

  • Dizziness or confusion

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat

Some people have skin reactions to latex gloves, with such symptoms as bumps, sores and cracks. While these are not true allergic reactions to latex, they increase the likelihood of developing a latex allergy. Other warning signs that you may be developing an allergy include itching and swelling after using latex products—for example, having itchy or swollen lips after blowing up a balloon.

3. Who is at risk of developing a latex allergy?

In the United States, latex allergy is rare. It only affects about 1% of the population. Although anyone can develop a latex allergy, healthcare workers and rubber industry workers are at highest risk. In fact, up to 17% of healthcare workers—or anyone who wears latex gloves regularly—are allergic to latex.

Other people at high risk include children who have frequent surgeries or medical procedures, children with spina bifida, and people who have food allergies.

4. How do doctors diagnose latex allergy?

To diagnose latex allergy, your doctor will evaluate your medical history and do a physical exam. This will include asking questions about your reactions and triggers. A blood test can confirm the diagnosis.

5. What should I do if I have a latex allergy?

There is no cure for latex allergy, but it is manageable by avoiding latex-containing products. Find out what products you use that contain latex. You can check labels or contact the manufacturer if necessary. Then, find latex-free alternatives.  

Make sure your doctors, dentist, and other healthcare providers know about your latex allergy. They should use non-latex gloves and medical products when examining or treating you. Many hospitals and facilities normally use latex-free products, but it’s important to double-check each time.

Be prepared for a reaction by developing an emergency plan with your doctor. This may include using antihistamines or inhalers to control symptoms. For more severe allergies, you may need to learn how to use auto-inject epinephrine and carry it with you everywhere you go. Write out your plan and teach those close to you how to use the auto-injectors. It’s also wise to wear medic-alert jewelry identifying your latex allergy.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Dec 4, 2015

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Frequently Asked Questions – Contact Dermatitis and Latex Allergy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/faq/latex.htm
  2. Latex Allergy. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/latex-allergy.html
  3. Latex Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. http://www.aafa.org/page/latex-allergy.aspx

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