Do you have trouble breathing or a skin reaction when you come into contact with latex? Latex allergy first became prevalent in the 1980s. Since the 1990s, more products are being made with synthetic latex, such as vinyl or nitrile, and the allergy is less common as a result. Yet, people in the healthcare and rubber industries and individuals who have had multiple medical procedures are still at an increased risk of developing a latex allergy.
How Latex Allergy Happens
You can have a latex allergy from a young age or you can develop an allergy to latex with frequent and prolonged exposure. When an allergy to latex is present, the body sees the latex as an invader. It then sends specific antibodies (igE) that can react with the proteins in latex. These antibodies travel to cells that release mediators which causes an allergic reaction.
Mild to Severe Latex Allergy
The treatment for latex allergy depends on the severity of the reaction. A mild latex allergy, such as a rash only without other symptoms, may be treated with over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications. If you have a moderate to severe allergy to latex, such as difficulty breathing or multiple symptoms, your doctor may require you to carry an epinephrine or adrenaline pen to administer in case of an emergency.
Some people with latex allergy react to certain foods due to similar protein structures between latex and the foods. Common trigger foods include kiwi, banana, avocado, and chestnuts.
Coping with a Latex Allergy
There is no cure for latex allergy. The best way to cope with a latex allergy is to simply avoid latex. This can be difficult because latex is found in healthcare settings, condoms, and many other applications. Make sure that you let your healthcare professionals know that you have a latex allergy so that they can use synthetic gloves and materials. You can also use synthetic rubber condoms in place of latex condoms. Natural skin condoms are not recommended because they do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
If you suspect that you have a latex allergy, the best thing to do is to see an allergist for testing and diagnosis, as well as treatment and an action plan. Contact our office today for more information or to schedule an appointment.