Even the little things that look harmless can sometimes be potentially harmful in the end.
For starters, latex is a colloidal suspension made from the milky white sap of the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). Latex-made products look non-dangerous at first glance. However, being exposed to them can cause allergic reactions that can be fatal if left unattended.
WHO’S AT RISK
In the late 1970s, latex allergy was first recognized. This major health concern has largely affected people in the healthcare sector due to the use of gloves.
Although less than 1 percent of people in the U.S. have a latex allergy, the condition is more common in certain high-risk groups, particularly people with a birth defect in the spine called spina bifida.
People with spina bifida also have more risk of developing latex allergy. Aside from them and healthcare workers, rubber industry workers are also at risk. Lastly, if the condition runs in the family, you’re also at increased risk of latex allergy.
WHAT’S THE CAUSE
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, latex can be found in a lot of products, including bandages, rubber bands, condoms, rubber household gloves, rubber balls, and even balloons.
Exposure to these products, through skin contact or inhalation, causes swelling, redness, and itching. People may also experience severe reactions such as hives, swelling, runny nose or sneezing, inflammation of the eyes, breathing problems, and worse, anaphylaxis.
People also need to avoid some food as they have proteins that resemble those found in the rubber tree sap. These latex cross-reactive foods like nuts, avocado, banana, chestnut, kiwi, apple, carrot, celery, papaya, potatoes, tomatoes, and melons can also cause a reaction.
WHY SHOULD YOU BE ON THE LOOKOUT
There is currently no cure for a latex allergy, so the best possible remedy is to reduce its risks. People with latex allergies should always be vigilant about their surroundings to discern what triggers their condition and avoid serious situations.
Clothes with latex waistbands could set off a flare-up. Latex-made flip-flops could also trigger a reaction. The effect is also the same with rubber toys, condoms, and even balloons.
Besides, latex allergies have three types of reactions namely IgE-mediated allergic reactions (Type I), Cell-mediated contact dermatitis (Type IV), and irritant dermatitis.
Out of the three, Type I is the most serious and can be life-threatening as some deaths have already occurred. On the other hand, Type IV allergy is far less severe as the reaction doesn’t happen instantly. Oftentimes, the flare-up happens up to two days after exposure to latex. That’s mainly the reason why avoidance plays a factor.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
The symptoms of latex allergy vary from person to person, but if you think you were having an anaphylactic reaction, seek medical care immediately.
It’s best if you learn how to self-inject epinephrine, an emergency medical device used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. After using an epinephrine auto-injector, seek medical care right away as you still need to be given proper medical attention.
However, if you only deal with less severe reactions, you can talk to your doctor for further discussion and treatment. You can also tell the people around you that you have a latex allergy, so they could help when things go wrong. Aside from avoidance, awareness also plays great importance.
WHERE TO START
Latex allergy is everyone’s business. Even those who aren’t sensitive to latex should play a role to keep the harmful material away from those who endure its toxic touch.
As of October this year, the Latex Allergy Awareness California shared that eight states in the US, namely Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Hawaii, have already banned the use of latex gloves in restaurants and other food establishments.
An ordinance like this a game-changer for it removes the allergen-containing materials from kitchens and public places. It teaches other people that they could help reduce the potential hazards of latex to one’s health. And being able to safely eat at restaurants without the fear of allergic reactions is a good start.
If you know someone who has a latex allergy, kind consideration and warm support are the things that they need. Let us help them raise awareness about the condition even in our little ways by reducing the use of latex-made products. To know more about latex allergy, read here.
The information presented on AllergyKB is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Our knowledge base website is for general informational purposes only. It should not be construed as a standard of care to be followed by a user of the website. We highly urge everyone to always seek the advice of their physician or other qualified health providers.