Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Latex refers to natural rubber, the product made of a milky liquid derived from the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. Many kinds of synthetic rubber are also known as "latex", but these do not release proteins that cause allergic reactions.

What is Latex Allergy?

Latex allergy is a reaction to certain proteins in latex rubber. The exposure time that the latex needs to produce a sensitization or allergic reaction is unknown. The risk of presenting allergic symptoms increases with an increase in exposure to latex proteins. Among sensitized people, symptoms usually begin after a few minutes of exposure, but they can be presented hours later and can vary a lot. Light reactions to latex include redness of the skin, hives, or itching. More severe reactions may involve respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, sore throat, and asthma (difficulty breathing, periods of coughing, and wheezing). Shock almost never occurs, but a life-threatening reaction is rarely the first sign of latex allergy.

Products with Latex Content

A wide variety of products contain latex: medical articles, personal protective equipment and numerous household items.

The majority of people who have contact with latex products only for general use in the society do not have health problems when using these products. The following are examples of products that may contain latex:

What Household Items have Latex in them?

Latex is present in car tires, scooters for bicycles and motorcycles, rugs, goggles for swimming, handles for rackets, soils for shoes, elastic fabric, gloves for washing dishes, hot water bags, condoms, diaphragms, balloons, baby pacifiers...

Individuals who already have a latex allergy should be aware of the products with latex that possibly causes an allergic reaction. Some of the products in the above list are available in latex-free forms.

Is Contact with the Skin the only form of Exposure to Latex?

No. The latex proteins are attached to talc lubricant used in some gloves. When the workers change gloves, the protein / talc particles are thrown into the air and can be inhaled.

Who is at Risk for Latex Allergy?

Health care workers have the risk of developing this allergy because they wear latex gloves frequently. Workers who wear gloves less frequently (such as waitresses, stylists, and workers in industries that manufacture latex products) are also in danger.

How is a Latex Allergy Treated?

Detecting the first symptoms, reducing exposure to latex, and getting medical advice are important to prevent long-term effects.

Are there Other Types of Reactions to Latex other than Latex Allergy?

Yes. The most common reaction to latex is irritant contact dermatitis (the presentation of dry areas, irritated, and itching on the skin, usually in the hands). This reaction is by irritation caused by the use of gloves and exposure to talcum powder added to them. Irritant contact dermatitis is not a true allergy. Allergic contact dermatitis results from chemicals added to latex during harvesting, processing, or manufacturing.

Prevention Measures

Take the following steps to protect yourself from latex exposure and allergy:

-Wear non-latex gloves.

-An appropriate protective barrier is necessary when handle infectious materials. If you choose latex gloves, use gloves without talcum with reduced protein content. Such gloves reduce exposures to latex proteins and therefore reduce the danger of a latex allergy.

-The so-called latex gloves are hypoallergenic do not decrease the risk of latex allergy. However, they may reduce reactions to chemical additives in latex (allergic contact dermatitis).

-When using latex gloves, do not use creams or lotions based on petroleum (which can deteriorate gloves).

-After removing latex gloves wash the hands with mild soap and dry them thoroughly.

-Learn to recognize the symptoms of allergy to latex: hives, skin redness, itching, nasal, eye, or sinus symptoms, asthma, and (rarely) shock.

Conclusion

The content of latex in the products can vary depending on the companies that manufacture them. Companies that offer "alternative" products also manufacture products that contain latex. It is recommended to check with the provider before a person allergic to latex has contact with a certain product. It is advisable to check the labels all the time.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: August 2, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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