Latex allergy

Balloons: one of many things that can trigger an allergic reaction to latex.

What is latex allergy?

Latex is a milky sap produced by the rubber tree. Valued for its elasticity, it is used to make a variety of things, including gloves, balloons, condoms, and elastic bands.

Some people are allergic to one of the proteins found in latex, specifically one that gives latex its elasticity. This means that stretchier objects such as balloons are more likely to provoke an allergic reaction than a tyre, for example.

What are the symptoms of a latex allergy?

Latex allergy symptoms include:

  • An itchy rash
  • Itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose

Some individuals may even experience a severe reaction and anaphylaxis.

What causes latex allergy?

Anyone can develop an allergy to latex. However, certain groups of people seem to be at a higher risk of developing one than others:

  • People who are frequently exposed to latex, e.g. at work
  • People who also have hay fever
  • People with spina bifida
  • People with urinary problems
  • People with certain food allergies, e.g. banana, kiwi fruit, chestnut, etc.

Can you treat a latex allergy?

There is no known cure for a latex allergy. The best course of action is to avoid contact with products containing latex. It is important that your medical record reflects any allergies you have and that you inform your doctors of your allergy before any treatment, so that they know not to use any medical equipment containing latex.

Patients with a severe latex allergy may be advised by their doctor to carry a syringe loaded with epinephrine at all times, which can combat anaphylaxis in the event of an allergic reaction to latex.

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