Latex allergy is a medical term that encompasses a range of allergic reactions to the proteins that are present in natural rubber latex. Latex allergies are most common among people who are regularly exposed to latex products such as rubber gloves.
The majority of individuals with latex allergies are comprised of healthcare workers and those who have had a lot of surgeries. When latex-containing medical devices or supplies come into contact with the mucous membranes, the membranes may absorb latex proteins. The immune system of some people produces antibodies that react immunologically with the antigenic proteins. Certain fruits and vegetables such as bananas, chestnuts, kiwi, tomato, and avocado can all cause allergic reactions in individuals who are latex-sensitive. About 50% of individuals with latex allergy have a history of another type of allergy.
Symptoms range from mild to severe and may include red skin, itchy skin, sneezing or runny nose, coughing or wheezing, itchy throat; itchy, watery eyes, and scaly skin. It’s important to note that every year hundreds of people experience anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening allergic reaction caused by an allergy to latex. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include passing out, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping, and pale or red color to the body and face.
The only way to avoid an allergic reaction to latex is to avoid the substance all together. Substitutes for latex gloves like vinyl or nitrile gloves should always be used by individuals with latex allergy and those who work in the healthcare industry.