A latex allergy is a reaction to the proteins found in natural rubber latex, which is derived from the Brazilian rubber tree. If you have a latex allergy, your body’s immune system mistakes latex for a harmful substance and produces antibodies (immunoglobulin E antibodies) against it. Therefore, each time you are exposed to latex, you experience an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of a Latex Allergy
Latex allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can even be life-threatening (when your body has a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis). A reaction depends on how sensitive your body is to latex and the amount of latex you may touch or inhale. It is imperative that you seek a healthcare professional’s opinion if you believe you have a latex allergy, as your reactions can become worse with each additional exposure. Mild symptoms of a latex allergy include:
- Skin redness
- Delayed contact dermatitis (a rash that occurs days after latex exposure)
More severe symptoms of a latex allergy include:
- Nasal congestion, runny nose, and/or sneezing
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itching in the throat or mouth
- Difficulty breathing, wheezing, and/or cough
In addition to the symptoms listed above, in some cases, people with latex allergies may experience a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include itching, hives, swelling, abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, difficulty breathing, wheezing, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, rapid (but weak) pulse, and/or loss of consciousness. Anaphylactic reactions require immediate medical attention and, if available, an epinephrine injection (EpiPen administration). Even if your symptoms improve after taking epinephrine, you still must seek additional emergency care in the event your symptoms return.
Causes of a Latex Allergy
People develop latex allergies when their immune system identifies a protein in latex as a harmful substance. Their immune system then creates specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to fight it off. Each subsequent time you are exposed to latex, your immune system is primed to fight this foreign substance, causing the release of various inflammatory chemicals into the bloodstream. The release of these chemicals is what ultimately causes your allergic symptoms. Latex allergies are especially susceptible to sensitization, which is when each subsequent exposure to latex primes your immune system to react even more strongly the next time you encounter the substance. Latex allergies can occur in different ways:
- Direct contact. This involves touching latex-containing products.
- Inhalation. Some latex products release airborne latex particles that cause symptoms upon inhalation.
Some everyday items that contain latex include:
- Rubber bands
- Pacifiers and bottle nipples
- Shoe soles
- Certain medical supplies (bandages, catheters, stethoscopes, etc)
Certain foods also contain the same allergens that are found in latex. These include banana, avocado, kiwi, passion fruit, papaya, carrot, apple, melon, tomato, celery, potato, and chestnut.
Diagnosis and Treatment of a Latex Allergy
Unfortunately, latex allergies cannot be cured and there is no current treatment that can help desensitize those who have a latex allergy. However, it is still important to be tested for a latex allergy so you know what to avoid and what is safe for you to use or handle. At Frontier Allergy Asthma and Immunology, our allergy specialist has extensive knowledge and experience diagnosing latex allergies. During your initial consultation, your allergist will discuss the details of previous latex exposures, the symptoms that arose from them, how long symptoms lasted, how severe they were, etc. Your doctor will also ask about other allergies and perform a physical examination. This information combined with testing will help your doctor arrive at a diagnosis. Testing options typically include a blood test or a patch test. Once you receive your diagnosis, your allergist will discuss ways in which you can avoid sources of latex in your environment and a symptom management plan in the case of an emergency. This will likely include a prescription for self-injectable epinephrine and a list of signs and symptoms commonly associated with anaphylaxis.
Next stepsIf you are interested in further discussion about your specific needs, Dr. Reshamwala is happy to see you and answer any questions you may have. Please call 512-382-1933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment today! Book an appointment
Written by: Dr. Neha Reshamwala
NPI number: 1780874578
Page last reviewed: 03/20/21