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They Told Me I Have a Latex Allergy. Now What?

Published October 10, 2011


Horizons in Hemophilia, October 2011 

By Penny Kumpf, RNglove
What is a Latex Allergy?
Latex is derived from a natural rubber tree primarily found in Africa and Southeast Asia and is found in rubber gloves, condoms, medical equipment, catheters, some band-aids, tubing, pacifiers, balloons, and the rubber dam the dentist places in your mouth to protect you from swallowing debris when doing a procedure such as a crown.  

In a person who has a latex allergy, just like with any other allergy, the body produces antibodies to attack a substance that it finds irritating.  This reaction may be mild or it can be very severe, even life-threatening.
Allergy symptoms may include:

  • watery, itchy, or swollen eyes
  • contact dermatitis which includes skin lesions, scales, hives, or rash
  • rarely, anaphylactic shock which means the person is unable to breathe

It is important to know if you have an allergy to latex or develop one because latex is used in some medical products.  We know that latex allergies can develop in people who have had repetitive exposure to latex over time.  If you have any allergy symptoms after exposure to latex, it is important to let your health care providers know.
Those vulnerable to this allergy include those who have had multiple surgeries or procedures, healthcare workers, and those with a deformed bladder, allergies, eczema, or spina bifida.  It is interesting to note that people who are sensitive to foods like bananas, mangos, kiwi, strawberries, avocado, soy, or chestnuts are often sensitive to latex, too.
Please let your outreach nurse know if you develop any medical allergies so we can update your Emergency Action Plan to serve you better.  If you are allergic to latex and do home infusion for yourself or a family member, be sure your pharmacy knows you need non-latex gloves.  The HoG and Beacon Pharmacies provide only non-latex gloves. You will want to keep an updated copy of your Emergency Action Plan with you at all times to alert health care providers to give you the best care possible.
Additional information can be found online at WebMD and the Mayo Clinic websites.