Latex, also known as natural rubber, is a milky sap harvested from rubber trees. In its commercially processed state, latex is highly resilient, elastic, and water-proof, making it a great product in many fields. Surgical and household gloves, rubber bands, and condoms are just some of the many items manufactured from rubber latex. Latex is also found in some clothing with elastics and lace.
While proven useful, exposure to latex could mean pain, discomfort, or even death to some people. Inhaling or touching natural latex allergens—proteins from the sap of a rubber tree—can cause an allergic reaction that varies from mild to severe, the worst being anaphylactic shock.
People at Risk
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
One in every 1,000 people can develop an allergic reaction to latex. Children with spina bifida—a congenital disorder wherein the spine failed to fully form before birth—are at most risk to be allergic to latex, while some 5 percent to 15 percent of medical workers regularly exposed to latex are also prone to allergic reactions.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Swelling, itching, and redness are the most common symptoms of latex allergy. These skin reactions normally occur after touching products with natural latex allergens, such as balloons or adhesive bandages. Other reactions may include respiratory problems like asthma attacks. If a person walks into a room where balloons are present and immediately gets an asthma attack, then that person is most likely allergic to latex.
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned, consult a physician immediately. A blood test or skin sensitivity test may be performed to make the proper diagnosis. During skin testing, the doctor will use a piece of latex to prick or scratch the skin and see if it triggers an allergic reaction. If the skin area becomes irritated, itchy, red, or swollen, then you may be allergic to latex.
At present, there are no medical treatment that can cure latex allergies. There are, however, plenty of preventive measures to avoid allergic reactions.
- Wear latex-free clothing such as latex-free bras, socks, and ladies' and men's undergarments
- If your work requires wearing gloves, use latex-free gloves instead
- Always check labels to ensure the product does not contain latex
Latex allergies shouldn't be treated lightly. Allergic reactions may be mild at first but continued exposure could lead to severe cases overtime. Keep in mind that avoiding latex is the only way to avoid triggering allergies.