Home / Health Insurance / Articles / Understanding Latex Allergy: Types, symptoms, and treatment
Team AckoDec 14, 2022
Rubber is a household item. But sometimes, people can be allergic to latex, which forms a major part of rubber. Studies show that around 5 to 17% of healthcare professionals and 3.7 to 8% of rubber industry workers have latex allergies. Thus, it’s best to be cautious. Read on to learn more about Latex Allergy, its types, symptoms, and treatment.
Latex Allergy is an allergic reaction to the proteins found in rubber latex. It is the sticky, white substance found underneath the bark of the rubber tree. In people with Latex Allergy, their body confuses proteins in latex with a harmful substance resulting in different allergic responses.
Any direct contact with latex, such as from touching latex gloves, blowing a balloon or contacting condoms, can trigger an allergic reaction in a susceptible individual. The response could also be triggered by inhaling latex particles while removing latex gloves.
Once the latex particles enter the body, the body confuses them as harmful substances. It triggers the immune system to release substances called antibodies and other mediators of inflammation. These bring about the typical symptoms of an allergy. The severity depends on the sensitivity of the body to latex and the quantity of latex exposed.
The people at the most risk of developing Latex Allergy are those exposed to latex frequently. These include the following.
Workers in the rubber industry
People who undergo multiple medical procedures like surgeries
Those with urinary catheters
People with a type of spinal deformity called spina bifida
Those with a family history of allergy to latex
There are two main types of latex allergies.
IgE-mediated Latex Allergy (type I): This type of allergic reaction can become life-threatening. Exposure to latex causes the immune system to release certain substances called antibodies (IgE). This, in turn, causes the onset of the symptoms of allergy.
Cell-mediated contact dermatitis (type IV): This allergic reaction causes skin irritation and swelling (inflammation). It leads to the formation of blisters that may rupture and ooze fluid. Although it is not life-threatening, it may be bothersome.
The symptoms of Latex Allergy vary from person to person. These include the following.
Mild symptoms: Itching, swelling, redness and rashes on the area of the skin that comes into contact with latex.
Severe symptoms: Sneezing, runny nose, itching and tearing up of eyes, irritation to the throat, difficulty to breath, wheezing, and coughing.
The life-threatening form of Latex Allergy is called Anaphylaxis, which occurs immediately after exposure to latex. The symptoms include the following.
Difficulty to breath
Swelling of skin, tongue and face
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of consciousness
Raising or dropping pulse rate
If you develop these symptoms, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
Latex Allergy has no cure. Try avoiding contact with latex. However, if you have accidentally exposed yourself to latex and consequently developed a reaction, you should avail treatment at the earliest. Your treatment options depend on the severity of the allergy.
You may experience relief medicines like antihistamines or mild steroids if you have only a mild skin reaction.
However, if you experience Anaphylaxis, you should consult a doctor immediately.
You may be injected with epinephrine and admitted to the hospital until the symptoms resolve.
If you know you are prone to severe Latex Allergy, it is advisable to carry a badge or bracelet which mentions your allergy. It is best to also have epinephrine shots with you all the time.
Certain food substances such as avocado, chestnut, banana, kiwi and passion fruit contain the same allergens found in latex. Hence, if you have a Latex Allergy, be cautious while you consume these. You may be allergic to these food items too.
If you develop symptoms of Anaphylaxis, you must immediately consult a doctor. If you have milder symptoms, you may take a doctor's opinion to confirm that latex is the cause of allergy and to know which medicines you should take.
If you are unsure what the cause of your allergy is, consult a doctor. Your doctor would prescribe an allergy blood test. Your doctor would also advise a skin prick test with all the possible substances that could be the cause of your allergy, including latex. You can confirm if you are allergic to latex based on the test results.
During the skin prick test, your doctor will put a small amount of latex on your skin surface and will scratch or prick your skin surface with a small needle. This will cause a small amount of latex to enter under the surface. In case you are allergic to latex, this will result in the formation of red raised welts. It is usually observed after 15 to 30 minutes. This indicates that your immune system is reacting against the latex.
Rubber is present everywhere around us. Some of the common home triggers for Latex Allergy include rubber toys, grips of utensils, rubber sink mats and stoppers, gloves, rubber electrical cords, toothbrushes with rubber grips, remote controls with rubber buttons, wrist pads or mouse pads with rubber, keyboards and calculators with rubber keys, pen grips, rubber stamps, and rubber bands. However, synthetic latex, such as latex house paints, is not made of natural rubber. Hence they do not trigger any allergic reaction.
If you are allergic to latex, inform your doctor about it at least 24 hours before your appointment. This will help you doctors to prepare themselves for the appointment.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.
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