It is common to think that there are different types and forms of allergies that are never heard of. You may be familiar with some common allergic reactions to birds, chicken, and fish, but rubber? Hmmm…Very rare! This could lead to another but an uncommon type of allergy called latex allergy which is the hypersensitivity to rubbers and related rubber-made materials. Over times, a lot of individuals do come in contact with latex that is mostly found in condoms, gloves, bandages, balloons, and other rubber-made materials, latex allergy emerges. Although several reports reveal that the major causes of latex allergy are still yet to be known, still the symptoms will surface the moment you expose yourself to rubber and rubber-made objects.
Latex is a natural rubber and the main raw materials used in the production of a wide variety of products, ranging from the common consumer products like clothing accessories and bowling balls to medical supplies such as catheters and disposable gloves. When exposed to the different types of latex, a lot of individuals experience allergic reactions that can be severe or mild. Although these reactions can occur as a result of inhaling powder particles through the removal of a powdered latex glove, latex allergy often occurs when an allergic person comes in contact with latex. Since allergies to latex are relatively not common, therefore, people who are latex allergic should take necessary precautions to protect themselves from exposure to latex.
Latex comes in different forms mostly synthetic and natural. Sometimes found in the sap of many trees and plants, most of the natural latex is mainly native to the Asian market. Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is produced from oil derivatives and can be mixed with natural latex to produce a semi-synthetic. Depends on its reactions, latex allergies can be life threatening or a minor irritant.
Generally, more severe reactions are mainly caused by protein-contained natural latex, but both synthetic and natural latex can cause allergic reactions. Some of the chemicals used in the production of rubber can also cause reactions in people with a strong chemical sensitivity. There could also be reactions from a rubber itself since it tends to attract and retain residue from other substances which cause a reaction.
It is crucial that the moment you know about one’s hypersensitivity to latex allergy, being knowledgeable and wary and of its stages as well as its symptoms of primary importance. This allergic reaction is in three stages, which are:
- Mild contact dermatitis,
- Allergic contact dermatitis and
- Latex hypersensitivity.
It is important to note, however, that each of these stages varies from mild to severe.
Mild Contact Dermatitis — this includes those people who have very mild allergic skin reactions. Those in this category of allergy will suffer dryness and itchiness of the skin known to be the typical symptoms of those who are sensitive to rubber and rubber-made products.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis — The second stage of latex allergy and experienced when a burning sensation on infected areas is felt together with some inflammation and itching of the skin. The reaction from this type of allergy can be somewhat more continual and persistent than the first.
Latex Hypersensitivity — although this type of latex allergy is uncommon, it is considered to be the most severe and serious stage of latex allergy. However, if a simple burning sensation or itch is left unattended to, the probability of reaching this stage is possible. Ideally, with all the warnings and symptoms, if latex hypersensitivity is still left untreated for a period of time, it could lead to untimely death.
However, sensitivity to natural latex and rubber and natural latex made substances are not the only types to be addressed in this kind of skin reaction. Also, there are specific group of fruits such as avocado and kiwi and other foods including bananas, chestnuts, and tomatoes with high concentrations of rubber proteins. Thus, it is crucial that you take note of the foods you eat if you have allergies to latex.
Latex Allergy Symptoms
Like other types of allergy, the symptoms of an allergy to latex can be mild or severe; it depends on how sensitive the person is. However, typical symptoms include rashes and hives, blisters in the affected area, red, itchy or watery eyes, running nose, coughing, breathing difficulties, and shortness of breath or shock (anaphylaxis).
Some other symptoms for those who use latex gloves include rashes and cracks on their hands. Typically, the symptoms may take some time to surface (sometimes 12 to 36 hours). Wearing non-latex hypo allergenic gloves and taking care of your hands are the easiest ways of reducing these symptoms. It is important to stress that latex allergies can lead to serious life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis with no previous symptoms or warning.
Over times, those who are allergic to latex do not experience similar severity of symptoms or reactions, and anyone who suspects an allergy to latex should immediately consult the allergists. Thus, if a reaction involves shock or other severe symptoms, emergency medical attention should be sought immediately.
Severe reactions to latex can cause breathing difficulties from just simple contact, people especially children with Spina Bifida are specifically at risk for this type of severe reaction. Those in the healthcare industry and rubber workers also appear to be at higher risk of developing latex allergies. Similarly, less intense but still troublesome reactions are hives and skin rashes commonly called contact dermatitis which cause itchy, flaky, and red spots that breakout upon exposure to latex.
People who are the most prone to latex allergies are those who work in the rubber manufacturing industry and health care field. Individuals with other types of allergies like food allergies and seasonal allergies are open to developing a latex allergy.
Avoiding contact with latex is the simplest and easiest way to prevent the reactions related to latex allergies. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to most of the common latex products. When a patient or medical professional is known to be allergic to latex, disposable nitrile gloves are often used as a substitute for latex gloves. Therefore, anyone with the allergy should immediately inform doctors, dentists, and nurses so that latex products can be avoided. For most of the consumer products, ensure to check the latex content of the products before its usage. This is another precaution that can be taken to minimize exposure to the allergen. Over all, the best thing that you can do if you realize that you have a latex allergy is to keep away or remove any latex products, objects or substances from your environment.
It is also of paramount importance to avoid breathing in any powders like the ones commonly found in latex gloves as they contain latex particles which can lead to a severe allergic reaction as well. Some experts recommend wearing some form of medical ID necklaces or bracelets in case of an emergency so that allergists are aware of your latex allergy.
If you are a healthcare worker or working in a latex-filled environment, you may understand the dangers of a latex allergy, but these allergens can also affect the average person more than you know. A lot of people associate latex with the gloves that are used in most day-care settings or hospitals, but latex can also be found in places you would least expect.
It is, of course, advisable to contact your doctor if you suspect that you have this allergy. They will likely direct you to an allergist to confirm whether you are allergic to latex or not. Typically, the testing for a latex allergy is carried out through blood tests since a skin test could be very dangerous. We all seem to walk around without knowing some of the allergens that surround us. Being aware of the possible allergy types and reactions can make a death or life difference.