If you have a latex allergy, your skin or mucous membranes react when latex touches them. A severe latex allergy can affect breathing and cause other serious problems.
Latex is made from the sap of rubber trees. Very strong and stretchy, it is used in a lot of medical equipment.
Below is a list of common hospital items that may contain latex. Other hospital items may also contain latex.
A lot of contact with latex over time increases your risk of a latex allergy. Some people in this group are:
Others who may become allergic to latex are people who are allergic to foods that have the same proteins that are in latex. Three of these foods are bananas, avocado, and chestnuts.
Some other foods that are less strongly linked with latex allergy are kiwi, peaches, nectarines, celery, melons, tomatoes, papayas, figs, potatoes, apples, and carrots.
Latex allergy is diagnosed by how you have reacted to latex in the past. If you developed a rash or other symptoms after contact with latex, you are allergic to latex. Allergy skin testing can help diagnose a latex allergy.
A blood test can also be done. If you have latex allergens in your blood, you are allergic to latex. Allergens are substances your body makes to fight off something you are allergic to.
You can have a reaction to latex if your skin, mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, or other moist areas), or bloodstream (during surgery) come into contact with latex. Breathing in the powder in latex gloves can also cause reactions.
Some symptoms of latex allergy are:
Signs of a severe allergic reaction often involve more than one body part. Some of the symptoms are:
A severe allergic reaction is an emergency. You must be treated right away.
If you have a latex allergy, avoid items that contain latex. Ask for equipment that is made with vinyl or silicone instead of latex. Here are some other ways to avoid latex while you are in the hospital. Ask for:
Pien LC. Allergy and immunology. In: Cary WD, ed. Current Clinical Medicine. 2nd Ed. Cleveland Clinic. 2010.
Updated by: Stuart I. Henochowicz, MD, FACP, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, Georgetown University Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.