What is a latex allergy? A latex allergy is your body's reaction to the protein in natural rubber latex. Latex gloves and other latex products contain this protein. You may have a reaction if you touch or breathe in the protein. The reaction may be mild to severe and can become life-threatening.
What products contain latex? Latex is used to make many rubber products found in homes, hospitals, schools, and the workplace. The following items may contain latex:
- Gloves, tape, bandages, or tourniquets
- Medical tubes, rubber injection ports, plunger tips, or medicine bottles with rubber tops
- Face masks, breathing tubes, or other respiratory equipment
- Bite blocks used during dental visits
- Certain clothing items that contain elastic, such as bras, shoes, belts, and suspenders
- Foam pillows, carpet backing, golf or tennis grips, and garden hoses
- Condoms, diaphragms, contraceptive sponges, and female sanitary pads
- Diapers, bottle nipples, and pacifiers
What increases my risk of a latex allergy?
Frequent exposure to latex: This includes healthcare workers, hairdressers, housekeepers, gardeners, and people who work with food or fabric.
Other allergies: This includes hay fever, asthma, food allergies, or skin conditions.
Certain health conditions: This includes developmental disorders, such as spina bifida. Children who have had surgery before their first birthday may have an increased risk of a latex allergy.
- Previous unexpected reactions: This includes other severe allergies or unexpected reactions during hospitalization or surgery.
What are the signs and symptoms of a latex allergy? Your signs and symptoms depend on the severity of your latex allergy. You may have symptoms only where latex has touched you. You may have more severe symptoms that include areas of your body not exposed to latex. These may occur within minutes after you have touched latex. They may also not appear for 24 to 48 hours. You may have any of the following:
- Itching or burning feeling of your skin
- Bumps, sores, blisters, or a skin rash
- Cracking, peeling, or flaking of your skin
- Tingling feeling in your mouth
- Facial swelling, especially around your eyes
- Dizziness or fast heart rate
- Chest or throat tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath
How is an allergy to latex diagnosed? Your caregiver will ask you about other health conditions you have. He will ask about your signs and symptoms, and blood may be collected for tests. You may also need skin tests. Ask your caregiver for more information about the tests that you need.
How is a latex allergy treated?
Antihistamines: This medicine treats the symptoms of a mild latex allergy, such as a rash or hives. This medicine may also decrease symptoms such as a runny nose and watery eyes.
- Epinephrine: This is given as an injection to stop a severe allergic reaction and can save your life. You may need to carry this medicine with you if you have a severe allergy. Caregivers will show you how to give yourself a shot of epinephrine.
What are the risks of a latex allergy? A latex allergy may begin as a mild skin reaction and may become worse each time you are exposed. You may have a rash that spreads over your entire body. You may have swelling in your throat and lungs that makes it difficult to breathe. Repeated exposure to latex may lead to a severe allergy to latex and can be life-threatening.
What can I do to prevent exposure to latex?
Inform yourself about products that contain latex: This includes common items that may be used around your house, work, school, or other activities.
Inform all caregivers of your allergy: This includes dentists, nurses, doctors, and surgeons.
Keep a supply of nonlatex gloves: Use vinyl or synthetic gloves if you need to wear gloves. Keep a supply of these nonlatex gloves in your house and car.
- Medical alert identification: Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have an allergy to latex. Ask your caregiver where to get these items.
Where can I find more information?
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
555 E. Wells St, Suite 1100
Milwaukee , WI 53202-3823
Phone: 1- 800 - 822-2762
Web Address: http://www.aaaai.org
When should I contact my caregiver? Contact your caregiver if:
- Your symptoms have not gone away within 2 weeks.
- You have new symptoms that you did not have before.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care? Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You develop hives (red, itchy bumps with a burning feeling on the skin) that have spread all over the body.
- You feel lightheaded.
- You feel warm and flushed.
- You have nausea or vomiting.
- You have a tingling feeling in your mouth or tightness in your throat.
- You have a fast heartbeat.
- You have wheezing, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing.
CARE AGREEMENT:You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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