About latex allergy

What is latex allergy?

Latex allergy facts

  • Latex allergy is dramatically on the rise throughout the world.
  • Latex allergy rises with exposure and is suspected to continue to rise until a latex substitute is found.
  • Latex allergy can be serious.
  • Latex is found in more than 40,000 products and is a common component of surgical gloves.

Why latex?

In 1987, there was a movement throughout the world to take precautions that would prevent the spread of infectious diseases, especially the AIDS virus. This effort resulted in the application of universal precautions for protecting a person from infectious material using protective barriers. One such barrier was the latex glove. It is estimated that since 1987, the annual United States usage of latex gloves has been 10 billion. This increase in the use of latex has resulted in a dramatic rise in allergy to latex. Health care workers are at particular risk for latex allergy and it is estimated that this allergy affects 2% of all hospital employees. Latex is used in over 40,000 products.

What is latex and where is it found?

Latex is a natural product which comes from the light milky fluid that is extracted from the rubber tree. This milky fluid is often modified during the manufacturing process to form a latex mixture. A person can be allergic to the latex or the mixture or both. Latex-containing products are many and varied (see the list below). One of two procedures is employed during the manufacturing of the latex-containing product. One procedure is "dipping," wherein a form is dipped into a vat of latex and after drying, the latex product is washed and then peeled from the form. If the latex product is not washed well, as is the case with rushed production, more "free" latex is present on the surface. This "free" latex is responsible for a great deal of latex allergy. Dipped latex products include gloves, balloons and condoms. A much less allergic latex product is made by molding the latex. Products such as rubber stoppers and erasers are manufactured using this process. The powder of surgical gloves is a significant problem. Latex will easily stick to powder that is commonly used in surgical gloves.

When the glove is placed on or taken off the hand the glove is frequently "snapped." This snapping places the powder, with latex sticking to it, into the air. Inhaled latex can be a serious allergic problem.

How is latex allergy detected?

Allergy to latex comes in two different forms. One form is called a "delayed hypersensitivity" which is usually seen as a skin rash at the site where the latex product contacts the skin. This rash can be quite severe. A more dangerous form of latex allergy is an "immediate reaction" to latex. This is also referred to as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can result in seriously low blood pressure, breathing difficulty, and even death. Some patients can experience irritation of the nasal passages similar to hay fever (allergic rhinitis).

To detect the delayed hypersensitivity reaction, latex, its preservatives and accelerators are placed on the skin using a standard patch test. Caution is used because an immediate reaction is possible with patch testing. To detect an immediate reaction, a blood test and skin test is available. With latex allergy, the blood test is performed first because of the potential severe reaction.



What are the symptoms for latex allergy?

If you're allergic to latex, you're likely to have symptoms after touching latex rubber products, such as gloves or balloons. You can also have symptoms if you breathe in latex particles that are released into the air when someone removes latex gloves.

Latex allergy symptoms range from mild to severe. A reaction depends on how sensitive you are to latex and the amount of latex you touch or inhale. Your reaction can become worse with each additional latex exposure.

Mild symptoms

Mild latex allergy symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • Skin redness
  • Hives or rash

More-severe symptoms

These include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Cough

Life-threatening symptoms: Anaphylaxis

The most serious allergic reaction to latex is anaphylaxis, which can be deadly. An anaphylactic (an-uh-fuh-LAK-tik) reaction develops immediately after latex exposure in highly sensitive people, but it rarely happens the first time you're exposed.

Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives or swelling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Wheezing
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Rapid or weak pulse

When to see a doctor

Seek emergency medical care if you are having or think you're having an anaphylactic reaction.

If you have less severe reactions after exposure to latex, talk to your doctor. If possible, see your doctor when you're reacting, which will aid in diagnosis.



What are the causes for latex allergy?

In a latex allergy, your immune system identifies latex as a harmful substance and triggers certain antibodies to fight it off. The next time you're exposed to latex, these antibodies tell your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream, producing a range of allergy signs and symptoms. The more times you are exposed to latex, the more strongly your immune system is likely to respond. This is called sensitization.

Latex allergy can occur in these ways:

  • Direct contact. The most common cause of latex allergy involves touching latex-containing products, including latex gloves, condoms and balloons.
  • Inhalation. Latex products, especially gloves, release latex particles, which you can breathe in when they become airborne. The amount of airborne latex from gloves differs greatly depending on the brand of glove used.

It's possible to have other skin reactions when using latex. They include:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis. This reaction results from the chemical additives used during manufacturing. The main sign is a skin rash with formation of blisters 24 to 48 hours after exposure, similar to poison ivy.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis. Not an allergy, this skin irritation is caused by wearing rubber gloves or exposure to the powder inside them. Signs and symptoms include dry, itchy, irritated areas, usually on the hands.

Not all latex products are made from natural sources. Products containing man-made (synthetic) latex, such as latex paint, are unlikely to cause a reaction.



What are the treatments for latex allergy?

Although medications are available to reduce the symptoms of latex allergy, there is no cure. The only way to prevent a latex allergic reaction is to avoid products that contain latex.

Despite your best efforts to avoid latex, you may come into contact with it. If you've had a severe allergic reaction to latex, you may need to carry injectable epinephrine with you at all times. If you have an anaphylactic reaction, you will need to go to the emergency room for an immediate injection of adrenaline (epinephrine).

For less severe reactions, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids, which you can take after exposure to latex to control your reaction and help relieve discomfort.



What are the risk factors for latex allergy?

Certain people are at greater risk of developing a latex allergy:

  • People with spina bifida. The risk of latex allergy is highest in people with spina bifida — a birth defect that affects the development of the spine. People with this disorder often are exposed to latex products through early and frequent health care. People with spina bifida should always avoid latex products.
  • People who undergo multiple surgeries or medical procedures. Repeated exposure to latex gloves and medical products increases your risk of developing latex allergy.
  • Health care workers. If you work in health care, you're at increased risk of developing a latex allergy.
  • Rubber industry workers. Repeated exposure to latex may increase sensitivity.
  • People with a personal or family history of allergies. You're at increased risk of latex allergy if you have other allergies — such as hay fever or a food allergy — or they're common in your family.

Connection between food allergy and latex allergy

Certain fruits contain the same allergens found in latex. They include:

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Chestnut
  • Kiwi
  • Passion fruit

If you're allergic to latex, you have a greater chance of also being allergic to these foods.



Is there a cure/medications for latex allergy?

Latex allergy is an allergic reaction to specific proteins found in natural rubber latex, which is derived from the rubber tree. When People have a latex allergy, their body misidentifies latex as a potentially hazardous substance.

  • Latex allergy can cause itchy skin, hives, and even anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal illness characterised by throat swelling and significant trouble breathing.
  • The specialist can tell whether it is a latex allergy or at risk of acquiring one.
  • A latex allergy cannot be cured.
  • If you are allergic to latex, you should avoid coming into touch with it.


If you do experience a reaction, the therapy will be determined by the severity of the reaction.
These may suffice for inflamed skin:

  • Antihistamines
  • Corticosteroid drugs
  • Calamine lotion or a 1% hydrocortisone cream can be soothing.

If the reaction is strong, you may require these immediately:

  • Epinephrine
  • intravenous fluids

Preventive Measures

Several common goods include latex. However, there is generally an alternative. Avoid the following goods to avoid a latex allergy:

  • Dishwashing mitts
  • Some carpeting types
  • Balloons
  • Toys made of rubber
  • Bottles of hot water
  • Nipples from a baby bottle
  • Some reusable diapers
  • Bandages made of rubber
  • Erasers
  • Diaphragmsx


Symptoms
Itching,Skin redness,Hives or rash,Sneezing,Runny nose,Itchy,watery eyes,Scratchy throat,Difficulty breathing,Wheezing,Cough
Conditions
Breathing difficulties,Itching or swelling,Vomiting and nausea,Wheezing,Blood pressure decrease,Dizziness,Consciousness loss,Confusion,A strong or weak pulse
Drugs
Antihistamines,Corticosteroids



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