Latex Allergy

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Latex allergy can be defined as the allergic reaction the body produces when it comes in contact with some kinds of proteins found on natural rubber latex that is usually obtained from a tree. Read More

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Latex Allergy

Latex allergy is the allergic reaction the body produces when it comes in contact with some kinds of proteins found on natural rubber latex that is usually obtained from a tree. The body cells recognize these proteins as harmful substances, hence producing antibodies to fight against the protein, which results in latex allergy. Latex allergy can be pretty uncomfortable as it is characterized by itchy skin, hives, throat swelling, in extreme cases, difficulty breathing, and maybe death due to anaphylaxis. Latex is natural rubber obtained from the sap of rubber trees, primarily found in Africa and Southeast Asia. They are commonly used to produce many medical and dental products such as gloves, dental dams, airways, intravenous syringes, stethoscopes, catheters, bandages, condoms, and other products such as handbags, balloons, athletic shoes, tires, tools, rubber toys, baby bottles, wristbands, etc. Latex allergy is said to affect 1 in every 6 percent of Americans. It affects anyone of any age as long as your body is allergic to natural latex. This allergic reaction could be mild or severe.  

Types of Latex Allergy

The types of latex allergy include:
  • IgE Mediated Allergic Reactions Type 1
It is the most severe form. The allergic reaction involves the immune system and leads to anaphylaxis. The body’s immune system produces IgE antibodies which react with latex proteins and cause allergy symptoms. A true latex allergy will result in type1 immediate hypersensitivity reaction.
  • Cell-Mediated Contact Dermatitis Type IV
This occurs as a result of the skin to chemicals used in making the latex product and not the proteins found in the latex.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis
It is the mildest type, and it is not an allergy. Instead, it is a red, itchy rash that breaks out where latex has touched the skin. It usually appears after 12-24hrs after the contact. Irritant contact dermatitis can be caused by frequent hand washing and incomplete drying, frequent usage of gloves, and hand sanitizers.   Risk Factors of Latex Allergy Certain factors increase our risk of developing an allergy due to natural latex. 1. A patient who is diagnosed with spina bifida. Spina bifida is a clinical condition characterized by a deformation in the spine during its development. People with spina bifida have high chances of developing latex allergies due to early and continuous exposure to latex products. Repeated exposure to surgery. This increases your probability of developing latex allergy as you are repeatedly exposed to latex medical gloves and products. 2. Those with the occupation of health care providers are constantly exposed to latex materials and tools. 3. People with a medical history of allergy. 4. Family history of allergic reactions. 5. People who work in the rubber industry are at potential risk due to constant exposure. Patients on catheters who use condoms frequently are also at risk of developing an allergy. 


It is challenging to diagnose latex allergy, as most symptoms are similar to those of other allergic disorders. However, the most common tests performed for diagnoses are:  
  • Physical Examination 
The doctor examines skin rashes, hives, eye irritation, wheezing, etc. The doctor also checks medical and family history on physical examination.
  • Skin Prick Test
This test is carried out to determine if the r skin reacts to natural latex. It is carried out by the doctor using a needle to place a certain amount of latex on the skin, which could be forearm or back, and then will be observed. If the patient develops a red bump on the skin, that indicates the patient has a latex allergy. The skin prick test is considered the gold standard for diagnosing type 1 hypersensitivity to latex [1]. 
  • Blood Test
 The blood test is done to check for latex sensitivity.
  • A patch test is also done.

Complications of Latex Allergy

Some complications of latex allergy include developing some skin reactions such as irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, also called delayed hypersensitivity, and in extreme cases, asthma or anaphylaxis.

Treatment of Latex Allergy

The treatment of latex allergy can be done through:
  • Reduce and avoid contact with latex products.
  • The use of medications to reduce symptoms such as antihistamines or corticosteroids
  • Ointments for local application such as calamine and 1% hydrocortisone cream can reduce inflammation.
  • Use of epinephrine pens.

Prevention of Latex Allergy

The following precautions can prevent latex allergy:
  • Avoiding or reducing specific products such as dishwashing gloves, latex carpets, balloons, rubber toys, etc.
  • Regulating your product use such as racket handles, motorcycle and bicycle handgrips, blood pressure cuffs, stethoscope, intravenous tubing, surgical masks, dental dams, etc.
  • Wear a bracelet that shows you have an allergic reaction to latex if you do, in case of emergency, so the health care providers can be aware since most medical tools are made up of latex.
  • Use nonlatex gloves.
  • Try using vinyl nitrile, prepolymer gloves instead of latex gloves.
  • Enlightenment people about latex allergies, especially those whose occupation frequently expires them to latex, especially those who expire.
  • Reduce your use of oil-based creams or lotions when using latex gloves as they may cause the gloves to break down.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid areas where latex will likely be inhaled.
Foods to Avoid During Latex Allergic Reaction Foods containing the same allergens in latex include bananas, avocado, chestnut, kiwi, passion fruit, tomatoes, melons, papaya, etc.


People who are allergic to latex may have the following symptoms produce when they touch or inhale natural latex. These symptoms could be mild or severe, although this depends on how sensitive you are to latex.

Mild symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • Skin redness
  • Rashes or hives
  • Sneezing 
  • Runny nose

More severe symptoms include:

  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Anaphylaxis; which is a severe clinical condition that affects the functioning of other systems of the body. It is quite deadly. It happens with people who are highly allergic to latex but rarely occurs during a one-time exposure. 

It is characterized by:

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


Latex allergy is caused by the reaction your immune system produces which triggers the production of certain antibodies that produced allergic responses within your system whenever you come in contact with natural latex. 

In latex allergy, the proteins found on the naturally occurring rubber are recognized by the body immune system as been dangerous, leading to the production of histamine, and certain chemicals, these chemicals produced to trigger the symptoms of the allergic attack. One can come in contact with latex through:

  • Direct Contact

This occurs when you come into direct contact with products of latex directly. For example using latex gloves, condoms, balloons, etc. Here, there is direct contact of your skin with the latex protein. They are the most common cause of latex allergy. Some skin reactions that may result from direct latex contact include:

This can be caused by the chemical additives used during the production of the latex product. It is characterized by a skin rash with the formation of blisters 24 to 48 hours after exposure.

  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis 

This is characterized by dry itchy irritated areas caused by exposure to the powders inside the rubber gloves.

  • Inhaling Latex Particles

Some latex products especially gloves could release latex particles or proteins which when you breathe in could result in an allergic reaction.


  • How long before a latex allergy goes away?

Treatment of the symptoms usually takes several days to weeks to clear, depending on the frequency of exposure to the latex protein.

  • What product contains latex?

Products made from latex include balloons, condoms, rubber bands, bandages, latex gloves, catheters, etc.

  • How do you calm a latex allergic attack?

You can calm latex allergic attacks by taking antihistamine medication by using a soothing lotion cream while seeking medical interventions.

  • Can you suddenly develop a latex allergy?

It is possible to develop a latex allergy if you are predisposed to the risk factors of latex allergy. These risk factors include frequent exposure to allergens, frequent use of latex products, people with a family and personal history of allergies, people with spina bifida, etc.

  • Does elastic contain latex?

Some elastics may contain latex mainly used in underwear clothing, suspenders, belts, elastic bands, etc.




  1. Burkhart C, Schloemer J, Zirwas M. Differentiation of latex allergy from irritant contact dermatitis. Cutis. 2015 Dec;96(6):369-71, 401. [PubMed].