Latex allergy

Latex allergy

Latex allergy is a medical term encompassing a range of allergic reactions to natural rubber latex.


Latex is known to cause 2 of the 4 (or 5) types of hypersensitivity:

;Type 1: The most serious and rare form, type 1 is an immediate and potentially life-threatening reaction, not unlike the severe reaction some people have to bee stings. Such reactions account for a significant proportion of perioperative anaphylactic reaction, especially in children with myelomeningocele.;Type 4: Also known as allergic contact dermatitis. This involves a delayed skin rash that is similar to poison ivy with blistering and oozing of the skin ("see urushiol-induced contact dermatitis"). This type is caused by chemicals used in the processing of rubber products.Fact|date=January 2008;Irritant contact dermatitis: The most common type of reaction. This causes dry, itchy, irritated areas on the skin, most often on the hands. It can be caused by the irritation of using gloves, or it can also be caused by exposure to other workplace products. Frequent washing of the hands, incomplete drying, exposure to hand sanitizers, and the talc-like powder coatings (zinc oxide, etc) used with gloves can aggravate symptoms. Irritant contact dermatitis is not a true allergy.

Testing for type 1 natural rubber latex allergy is through blood testing, such as RAST (radioallergosorbent test) identifies what types of IgE proteins trigger allergic reactions. While the standard for allergen testing is the skin prick test, there is no approved skin testing reagent for latex in the United States at this time. Some other countries do have approved skin testing reagents for natural rubber latex. Some people who are allergic to latex are also allergic to clothes, shoes and other things that contain natural rubber latex - for example elastic bands, rubber gloves, condoms, pacifiers and baby-bottle nipples, balloons, cars and clothing containing natural rubber based elastic. Synthetic elastic such as elastane or neoprene do not contain the proteins that trigger type 1 reactions. Type 1 natural rubber latex allergy is caused from IgE (immune) mediated reactions to proteins found in the "Hevea brasiliensis" tree, a type of rubber tree. Synthetic latex products do not contain the proteins from the "Hevea brasiliensis" tree and will not cause this type of reaction.

Type 4 reactions are caused by the chemicals used to process the rubber. Patch testing needs to be done to verify which type of chemical triggers the reaction. Once the chemical is identified, then the person can choose products that are not processed with that chemical. Both natural rubber and synthetic rubber products may cause type 4 reactions.

Those at greatest risk

* Children with myelomeningocele Spina bifida. Between 40% to 100% will have a reaction.Fact|date=May 2008
* Industrial rubber workers, exposed for long periods to high amounts of latex. About 10% have an allergic reaction.
* Healthcare workers. Given the ubiquitous use of latex products in health care settings, management of latex allergy presents significant health organizational problems. Healthcare workers who frequently use latex gloves and other latex-containing medical supplies such as physicians, nurses, aides, dentists, dental hygienists, operating room employees, laboratory technicians, and hospital housekeeping personnel are at risk for developing latex allergy. [cite web
url= | accessdate=2008-01-20
title=NIOSH Alert:Preventing Allergic Reactions to Natural Rubber Latex in the Workplace
publisher=United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
] Between about 4% to 15% of healthcare workers have a reaction, this usually presents as Irritant Contact Dermatitis, and can develop through allergic sensitivity to a status of full anaphylaxis shock; with health workers losing their vocation. [ [ Latex Allergy ] ] In the surgical setting, however, the risk of a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction by a patient has been deemed by Johns Hopkins Hospital to be sufficiently high to replace all latex surgical gloves with synthetic alternatives. [cite news
author = Associated Press | title = Hopkins ceases use of latex gloves during surgery
url =
work = delawareonline | publisher = The News Journal | location = Baltimore
date = 2008-01-15 | accessdate = 2008-01-21
* People who have had multiple surgical procedures, especially in childhood.

Estimates of latex sensitivity in the general population range from 0.8% to 6.5%, although not all will ever develop a noticeable allergic reaction.Fact|date=April 2007

Latex and foods

Some people who have latex allergy may also have an allergic response to any of a number of plant products, usually fruits. This is known as the "latex-fruit syndrome".cite journal
author = Brehler R, Theissen U, Mohr C, Luger T
title = "Latex-fruit syndrome": frequency of cross-reacting IgE antibodies
journal = Allergy
volume = 52
issue = 4
pages = 404–10
year = 1997
month = April
pmid = 9188921
doi =
url =
issn =
] Fruits (and seeds) involved in this syndrome include banana, pineapple,avocado, chestnut, kiwi fruit, mango, passionfruit, strawberry, and soy. Some but not all of these fruits contain latex. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that nearly 6 percent of the United States population have some type of food allergy and up to 4 percent have an allergy to latex. [“Allergy Facts and Figures,” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America] It can also cause reactions from foods touched by latex products in the most severe cases. There are some known cases of latex allergies being provoked from genetically modified foods such as tomatoes with latex proteins.Fact|date=May 2008

Some individuals who are highly allergic to latex have had allergic reactions to foods that were handled or prepared by people wearing latex gloves.Fact|date=May 2008


ee also

* Latex allergen testing
* Food allergy
* Food intolerance

External links

* [ Latex Allergy Resources]
* [ Latex Allergy Information]
* [ NIOSH Latex Allergy Alert]
* [ Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America]
* [ Links to pictures of latex allergy (Hardin MD/Univ of Iowa)]
* [ Latex Allergy Support Group]

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