What you need to know about latex allergy

Jun 18, 2016

There are many things a person can be allergic to. However, an uncommon, but serious allergy that can sometimes be overlooked is latex.

A latex allergy can cause severe discomfort, and in extreme cases death. To explain this allergy on “Take Care” this week, is Dr. Neeta Ogden. Ogden is an adult and pediatric allergist, asthma specialist and immunologist in private practice in New York City. She is also a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

There are two types of latex reactions to look out for, according to Ogden.

Immediate/Type 1

A Type 1 reaction to latex is more rare, says Ogden, however it can be fatal if not properly treated.

“The correlate of [Type 1], that people are probably familiar with, is something almost like food or a bee sting, where you have an exposure and you have a very rapid, escalating reaction that can involve a rash, your airways even, and at times can be fatal,” Ogden said.

Type 4

A Type 4 reaction is more common and less severe, according to Ogden. This reaction is limited to the skin.

“We’ll see a more delayed reaction, almost similar to poison ivy—blistering and oozing and itching of the skin,” Ogden said.

But no matter the type of reaction, it’s a certain protein that causes an allergic response to latex. Ogden says this protein comes from the rubber trees used to produce latex.

Ogden says latex is generally an uncommon allergy, with only about one percent of the U.S. population suffering from it. This may be because it’s usually something that develops over time due to continued exposure. Common victims include health care workers and children with spina bifida, according to Ogden. 

However, if you do have a latex allergy, it’s also possible you may have an allergic reaction to certain foods that contain the same protein as latex. These foods include:

·       Avocado

·       Mango

·       Kiwi

·       Banana

·       Pineapple

“It’s called the latex fruit syndrome,” Ogden said. “Some of these fruits can actually cause a similar reaction.”

Since allergic reactions to latex can be similar to other allergens, such as poison ivy, Ogden says it’s not a bad idea to be tested for the allergy so you know what you’re reacting to. This can be through either a skin sample or blood sample.

Although having an allergy to latex can be inconvenient, Ogden says there are many other forms of rubber that can be substituted. For example, there are balloons and rubber gloves that are latex-free.