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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).
Itchy, watery eyes
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 and in some cases result in a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.
Many products used in the hospital, community, and home contain latex.
Products in the Hospital and Clinic
Surgical and exam gloves
Products in Home and Community
Baby bottle nipples
Elastic on diapers and clothes
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. 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 tomatoes) due to cross-reactivity with latex allergen
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 Latex Allergies
Communication is the key. You will need to alert anyone involved in your child’s care.
All health care providers
Day care workers
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
UWHC Adult Allergy Clinic
UWHC Spina Bifida Clinic
Spina Bifida Association of America
4590 MacArthur Boulevard NW, Suite 250
Washington, DC 20007-4226
This information was adapted with permission from the Spina Bifida Association of America.