Thousands of items that we come across every day contain latex. If you are allergic to latex, items such as protective gloves and a banana can lead to health problems.
Latex allergy was discovered in 1927 but did cause a stir in the 1980s. At the time, HIV and AIDS were widespread and it was believed that simple physical contact could transmit viruses. Therefore, doctors and nurses wore latex protective gloves, which caused allergic reactions in many of them. When latex-free gloves were introduced, the frequency of symptoms caused by latex allergy dropped by 50%.
Learn what latex is, how allergies occur, how they manifest, and what you can do about latex allergies from this article.
What is latex?
Latex, also called natural rubber, is a milky liquid from a South American rubber tree (rubber tree). In industry, latex is processed into rubber, which we know as rubber in everyday life. You can also make natural rubber candy by adding certain additives.
What products contain latex?
Latex and latex products can be found in nearly 40,000 everyday items:
- Chewing gum
- Tires, sealants, mattresses, foam rubber, latex paint
- Latex clothing, rubber cuffs, sneakers
- Earplugs, baby bottles, pacifiers, erasers, balloons, self-adhesive envelopes
- Condoms, rubber gloves, ventilation masks, medical supplies such as catheters.
- Ski and swimming goggles, diving equipment, sports mats, inflatable boats
What is latex allergy?
In the case of latex allergy, the immune system mistakenly considers harmless proteins and additives (allergens) in latex products to be dangerous pathogens that harm the body. Skin contact with latex and inhalation – such as the haze of latex paint – can confuse the immune system, after which the body releases IgE antibodies. Antibodies aggressively fight off allergens, resulting in skin and airway discomfort. Latex products can contain up to 15 proteins to which a person may be allergic.
Latex Allergy Cross-Reactions – Latex Fruit Syndrome
Between 30 and 40 percent of people with latex allergies also suffer from allergy symptoms to certain fruits and vegetables, such as:
- Avocado, tomato
- Banana, papaya, pineapple, mango, date, kiwi
- Potatoes, celery
- Hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews
These foods contain proteins that are similar to the allergens in latex. These proteins confuse the immune system, which, for example, thinks by biting a banana that “harmful” latex proteins are entering the body. Then they talk about cross-allergy.
Who is particularly affected by latex allergy?
Over the past 100 years, it has been observed that especially people in the medical sector and service personnel have had to contend with latex allergies because they often work with gloves containing, for example, latex.
If the parents are allergic, there is also the possibility that the child will develop a latex allergy. Even babies born with an open back (neural tube malformation) are often allergic to latex.
What are the symptoms of latex allergy?
The most common form of latex allergy is on the skin: for example, on the hands after wearing protective gloves or on the lips when you have inflated a balloon. It may also happen that you inhale latex particles and symptoms appear in the airways.
Typical latex allergy symptoms:
- Skin contact
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Lack of air
- Lip swelling
In the worst case, allergies can lead to anaphylactic shock: the body releases large amounts of histamine, which causes blood vessels to dilate and blood pressure drop rapidly. An emergency doctor should be consulted as soon as possible. Until he arrives, the person should lie down and raise their legs (shock position). Failure to treat anaphylactic shock quickly can lead to death.
Latex Allergy Therapy
If you are allergic, you should avoid your day to day latex products and look for alternatives. Now you can buy, for example, rubber-free natural latex gloves and condoms. If you have signs of allergies, look for food cross-reactions. As with animal hair allergies, you can also wear antihistamines or cortisone nasal sprays if you have a runny nose after contact with latex.
Tip. When shopping for consumer products, make sure they are latex free. If they are only labeled as “low allergy”, there may be latex traces that can cause allergies.
Substances used in industry to replace latex include silicone in pacifiers, nitriles, neoprene and vinyl in rubber gloves. Latex-free gloves can be found at any regular drugstore. In the United States, for example, the manufacturer Yulex sells a latex-free rubber-like material. For example, Yulex wetsuits have been around for several years. Until now, Yulex products have not been able to establish themselves in the European market.
Can latex allergies be cured?
Doctors and therapists try to hyposensitize (immunotherapy) in order to cause allergy regression. During this treatment, the allergy sufferer takes a small amount of the allergen so that the body can get used to it. To date, there have been no successful drugs for latex allergy.
Latex Allergy Test
One way to find out if you have a latex allergy is to see your doctor. The doctor first tries to clarify the symptoms and causes in consultation. He then does a skin and blood test, followed by a possible provocative test to see if you are responding to latex allergens. Depending on whether you have skin or breathing problems, the doctor wears the allergens on the nasal mucosa or puts latex gloves on his arm to measure the reaction.
cerascreen® latex allergy test
You can also investigate possible allergies from home. With a latex allergy test, our specialized laboratory can take a small amount of blood from your fingertip to test if your immune system is responding to latex. To do this, the laboratory uses an allergy test to measure the amount of IgE antibodies that the immune system releases in the event of an allergy. In addition to the results, you will also find basic information about latex and selected health tips.
Latex allergy: at a glance
What is latex allergy?
The immune system attacks the body as soon as latex particles come into contact with the skin or the respiratory tract – they are considered foreign bodies. If a parent is allergic to latex, children are at increased risk of developing latex.
What are the symptoms of latex allergy?
The immune response leads to itching and redness of the skin. If latex particles enter the airways, symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath may occur. In some cases, cross-allergy occurs. These symptoms also occur when people with latex allergies eat foods such as nuts, tomatoes, avocados, or bananas.
How do you feel about latex allergy?
Allergy patients should avoid contact with latex products in daily life. When shopping, make sure the latex is free of marks.