Latex Allergy: Are You at Risk?
Who gets a latex allergy, and how can you prevent a reaction? Learn the vitals.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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Latex, a natural form of rubber, is used in countless common household products: dishwashing gloves, condoms, balloons, rubber bands, and even the waistbands on some clothing. Symptoms of a latex allergy can be mild, such as rashes or itchy eyes. But in some people, latex elicits a serious, and potentially life-threatening, allergic reaction. While anyone can develop a latex allergy, some people are more at risk than others.
Latex Allergy: Who Is at Risk?
The following groups of people are at increased risk of having a latex allergy:
- People with spina bifida, a birth defect where there is an opening in the spine
- 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 who are allergic to bananas, avocados, passion fruit, kiwi fruits, melon, tomato, celery, and European chestnuts. These food allergies are thought to be related to latex allergy.
Latex Allergy: Preventing an Allergic Reaction
If you do not have a latex allergy but are exposed to latex products on a regular basis, it is still wise to reduce your exposure. If you work around latex, for example, talk with your manager about taking steps to reduce latex exposure by using only non-latex gloves, which can lower your chances of developing a latex allergy.
On the other hand, if you have already been diagnosed with a latex allergy, you will need to take special precautions to avoid coming into contact with latex. Some of the more common latex-containing products that you need to be cautious around include:
- Medical and dishwashing gloves
- Toys made with rubber
- Baby supplies, such as pacifiers, baby bottle nipples, and diapers
- Sanitary and incontinence pads
- Office and school supplies, such as rubber bands, erasers, mouse pads, and adhesive tape
- Shoe soles
- Backing on carpeting
- Elastic on clothing and underwear
- Sports equipment
- Medical supplies, such as adhesive bandages, dental dams, blood pressure cuffs, face masks, urinary catheters, root canal fillings, tourniquets, wound drains, and resuscitation equipment
Since powdered latex medical gloves can cause latex proteins to become airborne, you may also need to avoid areas in which these gloves are used (for example, intensive care units and hospital operating rooms).
Latex-free substitutes for many items are available, such as vinyl or nitrile gloves and synthetic rubber condoms, so let your family, medical team, employer, and school administration know if you have a latex allergy. Use of non-powdered latex gloves can also reduce the risk of allergic reactions. For a detailed list of latex alternatives, visit the .
Depending on the severity of your allergy, your doctor may also suggest that you wear a special bracelet that notifies others you have a latex allergy and that you carry injectable epinephrine (for example, an EpiPen) in case of an emergency.
Latex-based products are everywhere, but being aware of your possible sensitivity and avoiding the triggers can help prevent more serious problems down the road.
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