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Managing latex allergies at home

Alternative names

Latex products; Latex allergy; Latex sensitivity

Description

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:

  • Balloons
  • Condoms and diaphragms
  • Rubber bands
  • Shoe soles
  • Bandages
  • Latex gloves
  • Toys
  • Paint
  • Carpet backing
  • 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:

  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Chestnuts

Some other foods that are less strongly linked with latex allergy include:

  • Kiwi
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Celery
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Papayas
  • Figs
  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Carrots

Diagnosis

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
  • Hives
  • Skin redness and swelling
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • 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
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps
  • Symptoms of shock, such as shallow breathing, cold and clammy skin, or weakness

References

Pien LC. allergy. In: Cleveland Clinic. Current Clinical Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010: section 1.

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.


Review Date: 5/11/2014
Reviewed By: 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.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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