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Latex allergy


Disease: Latex allergy Latex allergy
Category: Allergies

Disease Definition:

Latex is a product that is manufactured from a milky fluid derived from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), which is found in Africa and Southeast Asia. Latex allergy is a reaction to certain proteins that are found in natural rubber latex. In case someone has a latex allergy, their body will mistake latex for a harmful substance.


Allergic reactions could be caused by latex allergy, which range from a runny nose or sneezing to anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life-threatening condition. Whether someone has latex allergy or is at risk of developing it will be determined by the doctor.


To help prevent allergic reactions, people should understand latex allergy and become familiar with the common sources of latex.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


After being in contact with the latex found in rubber gloves, people who are allergic to latex usually have a reaction. With latex gloves, there are three types of reactions that could occur:

Hypersensitivity immune system response:

When someone’s immune system reacts to proteins that are found in natural rubber latex, this type occurs, which is an actual latex allergy. In case someone has this type of latex allergy, exposure to latex will cause immediate reactions such as wheezing, redness, sneezing, itching and swelling.

Allergic contact dermatitis:

This type is a reaction to the latex or the chemical additives that are used during the manufacturing process. Usually, 24 to 48 hours after contact, the chemicals that are added to latex will cause a skin rash, which could sometimes be accompanied by oozing blisters. In most cases, the rash will start on the parts of the skin that have come in contact with latex, and then spread to other areas.

Irritant contact dermatitis:

This is a common reaction to protective gloves. This isn't an actual allergy. It could be caused from detergents left on the hands before wearing them or it could be due to sweating or rubbing under the gloves. Usually, this rash occurs in dental and health care workers or other people who wear protective gloves. The skin will appear red, dry and cracked due to irritant contact dermatitis.


When latex gloves are removed, latex particles are sent into the air. This exposure to airborne latex particles could cause signs and symptoms that are similar to those of asthma or hay fever, such as:


  • Rash or hives
  • Stuffy nose
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Itchy and watery eyes



An anaphylactic response, which could be deadly, is the most serious allergic reaction to latex. In highly sensitive people, anaphylactic reactions develop immediately and cause the constriction of the airways (bronchi). A person may feel dizzy or lose consciousness in case their blood pressure drops to life-threatening levels. Some of the other serious signs and symptoms may include:


  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • The skin may become blue, including the lips and nail beds.


In case a person thinks that they are having an anaphylactic reaction, they should seek emergency medical care.


A person’s immune system identifies latex as a harmful substance if they have latex allergy, and triggers certain cells to produce IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies to fight the latex component. These IgE antibodies will sense latex the next time they come in contact with it, and signal the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream.


A variety of allergic signs and symptoms could be caused by these chemicals. Most allergic responses, such as nausea, rashes and hives, itchy eyes, labored breathing, dry throat, runny nose and even anaphylactic shock are partly caused by histamine.


These are the ways in which latex sensitivity could occur:


By inhaling latex particles, a person can develop latex allergy. Large amounts of latex particles are shed by latex products, especially gloves. These particles could become airborne. To make gloves easier to put on and take off, cornstarch is sometimes used on the inside of gloves. Latex proteins are absorbed by the cornstarch, however, the latex-laden particles could fly into the air when the gloves are snapped during application or removal. Based on the brand of glove used, the amount of airborne latex from gloves differs greatly.

Direct contact:

Direct contact with latex, such as by wearing latex gloves or by contact with latex-containing product is the most common cause of latex allergy. Someone could become sensitized once they’ve had direct contact with latex. The process in which the immune system begins to recognize and attack allergens causing an allergic reaction is called sensitization.



There are two types of latex products that are produced from natural latex sources:


  • Hardened rubber: In most people, hardened rubber doesn't cause allergies. This type is usually found in rubber balls, tires and athletic shoes.
  • Dipped latex: Because this type is usually used directly against the skin, it causes most allergic reactions. This type is found in some products that are "stretchy", including rubber bands, rubber gloves, condoms and balloons.


However, not all latex products are made from natural sources. Some products contain synthetic (man-made) latex, such as latex paint. These products aren't likely to cause a reaction because they don't contain the natural substance and aren't used against the skin.



There are lots of products that contain either latex or rubber, and many of them are found around the home. Some of the common latex products are:


  • Rubber toys
  • Dishwashing gloves
  • Sanitary pads
  • Balloons
  • Condoms
  • Carpeting
  • Baby bottle nipples
  • Diaphragms
  • Rubber bands
  • Waistbands on clothing
  • Hot water bottles
  • Racket handles
  • Motorcycle and bicycle handgrips
  • Erasers
  • Disposable diapers
  • Swim goggles


Health care settings also have latex products. One of the most effective barriers available to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis B and C is latex. Because of this, there has been a marked increase in the use of latex gloves. However, many health care facilities use nonlatex gloves because of the problem of latex allergy. Listed below are some of the medical products that could contain rubber or latex:


  • Stethoscopes
  • Syringes
  • Electrode pads
  • Surgical masks
  • Blood pressure cuffs
  • Respirators
  • Intravenous tubing





Latex allergy has no cure; however, there are medications that could reduce symptoms. Treatment will be based on prevention. Avoiding products that contain latex is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction.


However, people could come into contact with latex that causes a severe reaction despite their best efforts. If this occurs, they will need an emergency injection of adrenaline (epinephrine) along with a trip to the emergency room. They may also need to carry injectable epinephrine with them at all times in case they have a severe allergy.


If the allergy is less severe, to control the reaction and help relieve discomfort, someone may be prescribed antihistamines, which could be taken after exposure to an allergen. Skin reactions that are caused by a latex allergy could be treated with creams.


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