Latex Allergy Symptoms

Latex is natural rubber, that is it comes from the sap of a rubber tree. So many products are made of rubber that it is not possible to simply give someone with latex allergy a list with a simple warning to avoid these products!

In hospitals there are many latex containing objects such as face masks, catheters, gloves, enema tips, ostomy supplies and stethoscope tubing to list just a few. Consequently many hospital staff are exposed to latex daily and some have symptoms of hives or urticaria either due to contact or to breathing in particles of latex in the air.

This can be followed by a progression of other allergy symptoms such as asthma and in severe cases anaphylaxis.

It seems that latex gloves are the most common cause of allergic reactions.

Replacement of the usual medical latex gloves which are powdered with cornstarch to make removal easier with no powdered, low-protein latex and even nonlatex gloves is a practical and important method to reduce risk for both hospital staff and for their patients.

Latex allergy symptoms may affect the eyes and cause redness and irritation or cause coughing, sneezing and a runny discharge from the nose. Along with these symptoms a latex allergic individual may get shortness of breath and chest tightness, so it is easy to confuse a latex allergy with hay fever and other allergies.

In the most severe cases symptoms of breathing difficulty and wheezing may progress to confusion, dizziness, vomiting, rapid or weak pulse and loss of consciousness

This is anaphylactic shock and is a medical emergency.

There is another somewhat surprising aspect to latex allergy – an allergy to certain fruit. This is called the latex fruit syndrome. Remember that latex is from the sap of a tropical tree and it becomes more understandable that some plants contain latex and these can trigger symptoms too.

Some fruit implicated in this syndrome include (in alphabetical order) avocado, banana, chestnut, kiwi fruit, mango, pineapple, passion fruit, strawberry, and soy. In severe cases even contact with the foods can cause symptoms

For the future I think we can expect substitution of latex products with alternative non allergenic products. Some may be from synthetic substances like elastane or neoprene and others could be from other natural sources of rubber not containing the allergenic proteins from the rubber tree. The wide range of uses of latex in health care will mean that hospital workers and patients will need to exercise caution about latex allergy for several years to come.

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