Latex allergy is a medical term encompassing a range
allergic reactions to natural
the most serious and rare form, is an immediate and
life-threatening reaction, not unlike the severe reaction
some people have to bee
stings. Such reactions account for a significant proportion
anaphylactic reaction, especially in children with
is the common type; involving delayed minor rashes, itching,
and sometimes cracking of the skin.
caused by the chemicals used in the production process, and
talc-like powder coatings (zinc
oxide, etc) used with latex.
Some people who are allergic
to latex are also allergic to clothes, shoes and other
things that contain latex - for example elastic bands,
rubber gloves, condoms, pacifiers and baby-bottle nipples,
balloons, cars and clothing containing elastane.
Those at greatest risk
- Children with
myelomeningocle. Between 40% to 100% will have a reaction.
rubber workers, exposed for long periods to high
amounts of latex. About 10% have an allergic reaction.
- Healthcare workers. Given
the ubiquitous use of latex products in health care
settings, management of latex allergy presents significant
health organizational problems. Latex allergies are
becoming more common among doctors, as they have regular
and prolonged exposure to latex, mostly examination
gloves. Between about 4% to 15% of healthcare workers have
a reaction, although this is usually Irritant Contact
Dermatitis, rather than an allergy.
- People who have had
multiple surgical procedures, especially in childhood.
Estimates of latex
sensitivity in the general population range from 0.8% to
6.5%, although not all will ever develop a noticeable
allergic reaction. If you happily chewed on elastic bands as
a child, and you have no problem wearing soft rubber
washing-up gloves, there should be no need to worry.
However, there is evidence that the more you are exposed to
latex, the more allergic you may become. If you have only a
minor latex allergy, you should minimize your exposure to
latex so that you do not risk becoming more sensitive.
Latex and foods
A latex allergy can also
cause further reactions, to food items from the latex plant
groups - banana, avocado, chestnut and kiwi. It can also
cause reactions from foods touched by latex products in the
most severe cases. There are some known cases of latex
allergies being provoked from genetically modified foods
such as tomatoes with latex proteins.
It is also worth noting that
some highly latex allergic individuals have had allergic
reactions to foods that were handled/prepared by people
wearing latex gloves.