If you have a latex allergy, your skin or mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, nose, or other moist areas), or blood react when latex touches them. A severe latex allergy can affect breathing and cause other serious problems.
Latex is made from the sap of rubber trees. It is very strong and stretchy. So it is used in a lot of common household items and toys.
Home items that might contain latex
Items that may contain latex include:
Condoms and diaphragms
Baby-bottle nipples and pacifiers
Clothing, including rain coats and elastic on underwear
Food that was prepared by someone who was wearing latex gloves
Handles on sports rackets and tools
Diapers, sanitary napkins, and other pads, such as Depends
Buttons and switches on computers and other electronic devices
Other items that are not on this list could also contain latex. You may even develop a latex allergy if you are allergic to foods that contain the same proteins that are in latex. These foods include:
Some other foods that are less strongly linked with latex allergy include:
Latex allergy is diagnosed by how you have reacted to latex in the past. If you developed a rash or other symptoms after contact with latex, you may be allergic to latex. Your doctor can use allergy skin testing to see if you have a latex allergy.
A blood test can also be done to help your doctor tell whether you are allergic to latex.
How to avoid latex
Always tell any doctor, nurse, dentist, or person who draws blood from you that you have a latex allergy. More and more, people wear gloves in the workplace and elsewhere to protect their hands and avoid germs. These tips can help you avoid latex:
If people use latex products in your workplace, tell your employer you are allergic to it. Stay away from areas at work where latex is used.
Wear a medical alert bracelet so that others know you are allergic to latex, in case you have a medical emergency.
Carry a pair of vinyl or other non-latex gloves with you and have more at home. Wear them when you handle items that:
Someone who wore latex gloves touched
May have latex in them but you are not sure
For children who are allergic to latex:
Make sure daycare providers, babysitters, teachers, and your children's friends and their families know that your children have latex allergies.
Tell your children's dentists and other health care providers such as doctors and nurses.
Teach your child not to touch toys and other products that contain latex.
Choose toys that are made of wood, metal, or cloth that does not contain elastic. If you are not sure if a toy has latex, check the packaging or call the toy maker.
When to call your doctor
Your doctor may prescribe epinephrine if you are at risk of a severe allergic reaction to latex. Know how to use this medicine if you have an allergic reaction.
Epinephrine is injected and slows down or stops allergic reactions.
Epinephrine comes as a kit.
Carry this medicine with you if you have had a severe reaction to latex in the past.
Call your doctor if you think you may be allergic to latex. It is easier to diagnose a latex allergy when you are having a reaction. Symptoms of latex allergy include:
Dry, itchy skin
Skin redness and swelling
Watery, itchy eyes
Wheezing or coughing
If a severe allergic reaction occurs, call 9-1-1 right away. These symptoms include:
Difficulty breathing or swallowing
Dizziness or fainting
Vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps
Symptoms of shock, such as shallow breathing, cold and clammy skin, or weakness
Reddy S. Latex allergy guidelines. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger & Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2010: appendix C.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.