What is latex allergy?
Latex allergy is a condition where the body reacts to proteins found in natural rubber latex. Latex is a milky sap found in the bark of certain trees that is used to make many products, including gloves, balloons, and rubber bands.
Latex allergy is more common in people who are exposed to latex frequently, such as healthcare workers and people with certain medical conditions. Treatment for latex allergy includes avoiding exposure to latex and taking medication to relieve symptoms.
Symptoms of latex allergy
The symptoms of latex allergy can range from mild to severe. The most common symptom of latex allergy is contact dermatitis, which is a red, itchy rash that develops where the latex touched the skin.
Mild symptoms include:
- Itchy eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Red, itchy skin rash
- Hives or rash
Severe symptoms include:
- Tightening of the throat
- Drop in blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
In severe cases, latex allergy can cause anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life-threatening reaction that can affect the whole body. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include Wheezing and difficulty breathing, dizziness, and swelling of the throat.
Causes of latex allergy
There are many potential causes of latex allergy. Some people may be allergic to the proteins found in natural rubber latex, while others may be allergic to the chemicals used in manufacturing latex products. Still, others may develop an allergy to latex after repeated exposure to latex products, such as gloves or condoms.
Risk factors for latex allergy
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing latex allergy, including:
- Frequent exposure to latex-such as through work or medical procedures
- A history of allergies or asthma
- A family history of allergies
- A weakened immune system
- Working in a healthcare setting
- Certain medical conditions, such as spina bifida or food allergies
Treatment for latex allergy
The best way to treat latex allergy is to avoid exposure to latex. If you have a latex allergy, you should wear a medical alert bracelet and carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times in case of a severe reaction.
You can also take over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines to relieve mild symptoms, such as itching and rash. For more severe reactions, you may need to be treated with corticosteroids or intravenous immunoglobulin.
Complications of latex allergy
- Anaphylaxis: This is a severe, potentially life-threatening reaction that can occur within minutes of exposure to latex. Symptoms include hives, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure.
- Contact dermatitis: This is a skin reaction that can occur after direct contact with latex. Symptoms include redness, itching, and swelling.
- Asthma: Reactions to latex may cause asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Prevention of latex allergy
There are several things that can be done to prevent latex allergy. These include:
- Use of non-latex gloves or other protective equipment when working with latex products
- Avoiding latex products altogether
- Washing hands thoroughly after exposure to latex products
- Use of hypoallergenic products and barrier creams
- Undergoing regular skin prick testing and allergy shots (immunotherapy)
Latex allergy is a potentially serious condition that can cause a range of symptoms from mild to severe. If you have a latex allergy, it is important to avoid exposure to latex and to carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times in case of a severe reaction. Treatment for latex allergy includes avoiding exposure to latex and taking medication to relieve symptoms.