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Latex comes from the sap of rubber trees. A latex allergy is an immune system response to certain proteins found in natural rubber (latex). 

Symptoms 

  • Sneezing

  • Runny nose

  • Itchy, watery eyes

  • Itchy throat

  • Wheezing

  • Hives

  • Rash 

  • Swelling 

Reactions occur when contact is made to the skin, mucous membranes (mouth, genitals, bladder, or rectum) or the bloodstream (during surgery). Breathing the powder inside latex gloves or balloons can also cause a reaction. 

Signs often show up right away after contact. Reactions can range from mild to severe. Severe reactions occur within minutes and include many body systems. This life-threatening disorder is called anaphylaxis.

Many products used in the hospital, community, and home contain latex. 

Products in the Hospital and Clinic

  • IV tubing

  • Surgical and exam gloves

  • Catheters

  • Tourniquets

  • Adhesive tape

  • Elastic bandages

Products in Home and Community

  • Baby bottle nipples

  • Elastic on diapers and clothes

  • Pacifiers

  • Balloons

  • Toys

  • Erasers

  • Art supplies

  • Dental dams

  • Condoms

There are non-latex products for these items. They are often made of plastic, vinyl, or silicone. 

People at Risk

Anyone can get a latex allergy. It often occurs with frequent contact. With each contact, the reaction can become worse. Certain groups of people are at greater risk. They often have frequent contact. 

Those at higher risk include:

  • Health care workers

  • Latex factory workers

  • People with spina bifida

  • People having multiple surgeries

  • History of reaction to multiple IV medicines

  • Certain food allergies (bananas, avocados, chestnuts, kiwi and tomato)

Avoiding Latex 

There are medicines to help treat the symptoms of latex allergy. The best treatment is to avoid contact with latex.

Alert your health care team if you have had a reaction to latex or unexplained allergic reaction during surgery.

Avoid all latex products. Use other kinds of gloves, tape, pacifiers, etc. Use nitrile or vinyl gloves instead of latex gloves.

Ask your doctors about medicine you can take before surgery.

For serious reactions, talk to your doctor about getting an epinephrine device. Wear a Medic Alert bracelet or necklace.

People with spina bifida or urologic defects should be on latex alert.

Children with a Latex Allergy

Communication is the key. You will need to alert anyone involved in your child’s care. 

  • All health care providers

  • Schools

  • Day care workers

  • Babysitters

Teach your child to know and avoid latex products. Be sure that your child's medical, dental, and school records have a latex allergy alert.

Who to Call

UWHC Pediatric Allergy Clinic 

(608) 263-6180  

 UWHC Adult Allergy Clinic

(608) 263-6180

  UWHC Spina Bifida Clinic 

(608) 263-6420     

Spina Bifida Association of America

4590 MacArthur Boulevard NW, Suite 250

Washington, DC 2007-4226

1-800-621-3141 

This information was adapted with permission from the Spina Bifida Association of America.