What is Latex Allergy?
Latex is a product which is made out of a milky fluid that is found in rubber trees. This product is used in making glues, rubber, and other products. Latex Allergy is an allergic reaction to the fluid with which latex is made which has certain proteins to which an individual can get allergic to as the body takes Latex as an foreign invader and the immune system of the body responds by making antibodies to fight off the invader. Even after the exposure to Latex is worn off, the immune system keeps producing antibodies so that it may be able to fight off this invader when there is an exposure again. During this course histamines are released which cause the symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, and coughing and that is what we call as Latex Allergy.
The symptoms of Latex Allergy are variable and may range from mild to extremely serious symptoms like an anaphylactic shock. Latex Allergy is mostly seen in people who work in the rubber industry or stay close by a rubber estate who have a high probability for exposure to latex. Hence it is always better if an individual stays or is about to go near a rubber estate or place where latex can be found to have knowledge about Latex Allergy and its prevention.
What Causes Latex Allergy?
As stated, when an individual is exposed to latex, the body recognizes it as a harmful substance and starts to produce antibodies against it. The next time when the individual is exposed to latex the antibodies tell the immune system to release histamine in the blood which produces classic signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction like persistent sneezing, runny nose, and coughing. The more the individual is exposed to latex the more will the symptoms experienced by him or her due to Latex Allergy.
An individual can get exposed to latex in the following ways:
Direct Contact: This is the most common form of exposure to latex. This involves using latex containing products like gloves, condoms or balloons.
Inhalation: One can also inhale latex particles. When an individual uses a latex product like a glove, it sheds particles of latex which then become airborne and the individual can inhale them and thus they may enter the body. Artificial or synthetic latex does not have any effect on the body and is not considered allergic.
What are the Symptoms of Latex Allergy?
One can get symptoms of Latex Allergy after being in contact with latex products repetitively or inhaling latex particles. These symptoms are variable and range from mild to severe depending on the immune system of the body and the sensitivity of the body towards the product. The symptoms get worse with repetitive exposure to latex.
Some of the symptoms of Latex Allergy are:
- Skin erythema
- Rashes on the skin
- Persistent sneezing
- Runny nose
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Sore throat
- Problems with breathing
- Persistent Cough.
In some cases, Latex Allergy can also cause anaphylactic shock which can be potentially dangerous. Some of the symptoms of a potential anaphylactic shock are:
- Problems with breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- A dip in the blood pressure
- Altered awareness
- Rapid or weak pulse.
If the individual has the above symptoms then he or she needs to be taken to the nearest emergency room for treatment of the condition.
How is Latex Allergy Diagnosed?
Before Latex Allergy is diagnosed, the physician will conduct test based on the symptoms to rule out other conditions causing the symptoms. Once these conditions are ruled out then an allergy test will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis of Latex Allergy. These tests are:
Skin Prick Test: In this test, latex particles are used and applied to the skin in the arm or the back with tiny punctures made. If an individual is allergic to latex he or she will develop a bump at the site where the allergen was applied. This will confirm the diagnosis of Latex Allergy.
Blood Test: A blood test may also be done to confirm the diagnosis of Latex Allergy. In this, a blood draw is taken and sent to the laboratory to test for sensitivity to latex. If the test comes back positive, then it confirms the diagnosis of Latex Allergy.
What is the Treatment for Latex Allergy?
As of now, there is no definite cure for Latex Allergy but symptoms can be eased with medications and avoiding the allergen if an individual is found to be at risk for Latex Allergy. It may be easy to say to avoid products containing latex but practically it may not be possible, especially if someone is in the hospitality industry or working in a hospital environment. In case if an individual is severely allergic to latex and is not able to avoid it then the best way to treat the symptoms is to carry an epinephrine shot always so that whenever there is a flurry of symptoms it can be injected to get relief. In case of an anaphylactic shock due to Latex Allergy then the following needs to be done:
- Immediate injection of adrenaline
- A visit to the nearest emergency room
- Corticosteroid shots.
Antihistamines can be used for less severe allergic reactions and provide symptom relief due to Latex Allergy.