Latex allergy results from proteins contained in natural rubber latex, a milky substance found in the rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis). Exposure to latex proteins is possible via skin contact or inhalation. Inhalation most commonly occurs when donning powder, containing proteins which have leached to the cornstarch, become airborne when changing gloves.
Only about 2% of the population experiences latex allergy symptoms. While the level of exposure to latex required to illicit a reaction remains unknown, those frequently exposed seem to be at the greatest risk for an allergic reaction. Prevalence is highest among healthcare workers and children with spina bifida, where exposure to latex is common. People highly sensitive to other allergies, particularly to certain types of food, are also more likely to have a reaction.
An allergic reaction to latex may be characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Sneezing and running nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Eye irritation
- Skin rash or hives at the point of contact
- Shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
Although uncommon, allergic reactions can be fatal for those highly sensitive to latex.
Treatment & Prevention
The best treatment for latex allergy is to avoid contact with latex products. An assortment of non-latex gloves exist as suitable alternatives. Use of powder-free gloves can also reduce the risk of latex proteins become airborne.
If during use of a product containing latex you experience a reaction, consult a doctor. For more serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath, seek emergency care immediately.