Latex rubber is most commonly used in manufacturing gloves, balloons, erasers, and toys. This milky sap, which is found in rubber trees, is mixed with chemicals to achieve elasticity and is then ready to use to make products. Because of the abundance of latex in so many products, latex allergies can be particularly frustrating.
Latex Allergy Occurrence
Allergic reaction to latex happens when your body classifies latex as an “intruder.” Ironically, those that are most likely to be allergic to latex are those that are exposed to it frequently. It is for this reason that this allergy is common in people who work in the healthcare industry. Roughly 50 percent of people suffering from this type of allergy may also be allergic to other allergens.
Latex allergy can range from mild to extremely dangerous. What’s dangerous about this type of allergy is that the gravity of reactions becomes worse with constant contact with latex. Additionally, symptoms of the allergic reaction can also manifest when eating particular types of fruit like tomato, avocado, kiwi and bananas.
Latex Allergy Symptoms
Allergic reactions to latex are classified into different types. The first is known as delayed-type contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is often caused by the chemicals mixed with the latex. Symptoms to this reaction are not usually severe.
As the name implies, this reaction manifests between 12 to 36 hours after the person comes in contact with latex. Having red, scaly and itchy skin is the common symptom of this reaction.
Immediate allergic reaction is the second type and usually occurs in people with a history of being exposed to latex. The body becomes sensitized and as a result, the immune system reacts to the allergen right away. Common symptoms of immediate allergic reaction include itchy throat, sneezing/runny nose, itchy/watery eyes and wheezing and coughing.
The most severe type of allergic reaction to latex is anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. This occurs minutes after contact with the rubber and the reaction targets different parts of the body. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include swollen throat, red rash, fainting, wheezing, chest tightness leading to difficulty in breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping.
Latex Allergy Diagnosis
When diagnosing latex allergy, an allergist will ask a series of questions to determine the individual’s health history. Following that, they will perform tests to find out if the person is allergic. The most common tests done by specialists are skin and blood tests.
Latex Allergy Prevention and Treatment
The best way to prevent latex allergy symptoms is to avoid contact to latex (often easier said than done.) Some latex allergy sufferers are putting faith in rubber alternatives, like guayule rubber.
For mild allergic reactions, anti-inflammatory medications can be used to minimize less severe symptoms.