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What is a Latex Allergy and am I at Risk?

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Table of Contents

Latex is a form of natural rubber, and is used in countless items ranging from household products like dishwashing gloves, rubber bands, and condoms, to even the waistbands on various items of clothing. Repeated exposure to latex or rubber products has been seen to induce allergic symptoms so knowing if you’re at risk is important to avoiding or managing a latex allergy.

Children with spina bifida are at a higher risk of developing a latex allergy and make up 68% of those affected. As are people who work in the healthcare industry because they handle latex regularly and therefore are at a higher risk of developing a latex allergy, these workers account for 8 – 17% of people with latex allergies.

The exact cause of a latex allergy is still unknown but as mentioned earlier continued exposure to latex is known to induce symptoms. These symptoms can be as mild as a rash or itchy eyes. However, in some cases, latex elicits a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.

Who constitutes the risk group?

The following groups of people are at an increased risk of developing a latex allergy:

  • People with spina bifida which is a birth defect that affects the development of the spine
  • People with urinary tract abnormalities present at birth (congenital)
  • Heath care workers who frequently wear latex gloves
  • People who have had many medical procedures or surgeries
  • People who work in the rubber industry
  • People with a family history of allergies
  • People who are allergic to bananas, avocados, passion fruit, kiwi fruits, melon, tomato, celery, and European chestnuts. These food allergies are believed to be related to the latex allergy.

Preventing an Allergic Reaction – Latex Allergy

A person who does not have a latex allergy, but is continuously exposed to latex products is at a higher risk of developing a latex allergy. Thus limited exposure, such as wearing non-latex gloves, can considerably reduce the risk of developing a latex allergy.

If a person has already been diagnosed with a latex allergy special precautions need to be taken to avoid coming in contact with latex. Some products that may contain latex and should thus be avoided are:

  • Medical and dish washing gloves
  • Latex Condoms
  • Toys made with rubber
  • Shoe soles
  • Office or school supplies
  • Elastic on clothing or underwear
  • Sports equipment
  • Mouse pads
  • Adhesive tapes

Latex free substitutes are available for many items, for example vinyl or nitrile gloves, synthetic rubber condoms, etc. Thus a person who is at risk of a latex allergy must make his employer, medical team, family, and school administration aware of their allergy. Depending on the severity of the allergy, doctors can recommend various additional precautions. Latex products are everywhere, but with the right knowledge and a little caution, a person with a latex allergy can lead a normal and healthy life.

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