Allergy from Latex

Latex is a product of rubber tree commonly used to make gloves used in all medical procedures by doctors and medical personnel. Sometimes individuals can develop an allergy to latex when it comes in touch with their hand, mouth or bloodstream during an operation. Some people may be allergic to blowing balloons or to the powder inside the latex gloves. However, not all people realize their allergy, because latex is something that is not touched by everybody, until they blow a balloon or use a condom. The following article discusses about latex allergy in detail.

Natural rubber latex has been in widespread use for over a century. The first case of latex hypersensitivity was reported in 1979 and the reports have been increasing from then onwards. The low-molecular-weight soluble proteins present in latex are the sole causes of IgE-mediated allergic reactions.

Symptoms of a latex allergy
A person having latex allergy can react after inhaling airborne latex particles which are released after removing rubber gloves or coming in contact with latex in rubber gloves. Signs may range from mid to severe, depending upon the amount of latex allergens one is exposed to and the degree of severity. Recurrent exposure can worsen the condition.
Allergy from Latex
Mild symptoms of latex allergy include:

  • Hives or rashes
  • Reddening of skin
  • Itching

Severe symptoms of latex allergy include:

  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Scratchy throat
  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

Anaphylactic shock is the most serious allergic response that can be life threatening. Rarely, it is the first symptom of the latex exposure. Anaphylactic reactions are observed immediately in people who are highly sensitive to latex. If this is the case, immediately take the person to the hospital. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Blueness of the skin, including nail beds and lips
  • Weak or rapid pulse
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty in breathing

People susceptible to latex allergy
Latex allergy greatly affects about two percent of medical personnel who constantly use latex gloves. Some people have a hereditary allergy to latex. It affects persons who undergo frequent surgeries, children with a bifid spine, and children with problems of the urinary tract. People allergic to certain foods like bananas, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, peaches, papaya, figs and plums may have latex allergy. This is because these fruits contain the same protein as latex, triggering an allergic reaction.

Even people working in latex manufacturing industries are bound to risk of asthma. Latex sensitization was shown to be significant even in people working at doll manufacturing industries.

Mechanism of a latex allergy
Latex from the rubber tree undergoes chemical transformation into rubber products. The person may have allergy to pure latex or processed latex. There are two methods of manufacturing products from latex. In the drip-drying method, some natural latex may remain on the surface if not washed properly and causes allergy. If manufacture takes place by molding there is less chance of an allergy.

Undergo a patch test to detect an allergy before using the product. For this expose a small area of the skin to latex or its preservatives and if you are sensitive to latex, a rash will develop. In some individuals the reaction is immediate and can lead to anaphylaxis. To avoid this undergo a blood test to detect hypersensitivity.

Avoiding latex allergy

  • Thousands of products are made from latex. So familiarize yourself with all these products and refrain from using them.
  • Wear a medical alert tag to inform medical personnel that you have an allergy to latex.
  • In case of hypersensitivity keep an epinephrine injection within reach in accessible places and learn how to administer it.
  • Use products made from synthetic rubber like nitrile and Vitron, vinyl and silicone.
  • In case your child has latex allergy, inform the school and tell them what to do in case of an allergic reaction.

Treatment of latex allergy
Depending on the severity you can overcome the allergy by a simple course of anti-histamines, corticosteroids or an epinephrine injection in case of anaphylaxis. But, it is advisable to consult a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment. The best thing is to avoid exposure to latex substances to prevent allergic reactions.

This is a brief overview on allergy from latex.