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Latex allergies

Sufferers of a latex sensitivity or allergy may react to the touch of rubber - usually latex, which is made from the sap of the rubber tree.

Rubber tree sap, or natural rubber latex, is a cloudy white liquid that can be used to manufacture various consumer products. It can not been seen visually and, because synthetic rubber is also used to create products, it can be hard to avoid.

Natural latex can be found in many products including

  • gloves
  • elastic fabric, underwear
  • babies dummies (pacifiers)
  • balloons, soccer balls, volleyballs, rubber ducks
  • condoms
  • first aid tape and bandages
  • rubber bands, tires, tubes, erasers

Common symptoms of a latex sensitivity or allergy include

  • Dermatitis
  • Itchy skin
  • Hay fever symptoms, such as running nose and itchy eyes
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Wheezing and breathing difficulties
  • Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock – severe symptoms include airways swelling to the point of suffocation. Anaphylaxis is an emergency and can be fatal.

The most common reaction to latex is sensitisation which causes dermatitis as an irritant. Usually the sufferer will develop dry, itchy, and irritated areas on the skin. This is knows as Irritant Contact Dermatitis. 

If the reaction spreads away from the site of contact this usually implies an allergic reaction to the latex (Allergic Contact Dermatitis). An allergic reaction is caused by latex proteins which directly affect the sufferers and subsequently cause allergic symptoms, including rhinitis, conjunctivitis, hives, asthma , anaphylaxis and has caused fatalities. An allergic reaction to latex is not necessarily from contact. It can also be caused from breathing in the latex protein - for example as latex gloves are removed from another persons hands.

Serious anaphylactic reactions have occurred particularly from medical or dental procedures. If you have a known reaction to latex ensure all medical practitioners are aware of this.

Sufferers believing that are allergic to latex rubber products should consult an allergist to find out if they are actually allergic to latex (natural) rubber or to chemicals that are in synthetic rubbers. They should also advise their physicians and dentists so that they can decide if alternate products should be used in any treatment that normally requires the use of rubber products.

Latex reactions can be minimised by avoiding latex exposure. 

Sufferers should

  • try to use powder-free, non-latex gloves.
  • remove latex dust from workplaces and homes
  • warm doctors, dentists, etc of latex allergy
  • consider wearing an allergy bracelet 
  • carry own alternate products when traveling

 

Additional Resources: 

ASCIA
Latex Allergy

BETTER HEALTH CHANNEL
Latex Allergy

SYDNEY CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
Factsheet - Allergy - Latex


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