Latex Allergy

Natural rubber latex comes from the sap of the Brazilian rubber tree. It is found in many products used every day, such as rubber bands, bandages, rubber balls, and household gloves. Synthetic latex does not come from a rubber tree, so exposure to synthetic latex (for example in latex paint) does not prompt an allergic reaction.(1)

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, people at higher risk for developing latex allergy include:

  • Health care workers who frequently wear latex gloves
  • People who have had multiple surgeries
  • People who are often exposed to natural rubber latex, including workers in the rubber industry
  • People with an allergy to certain foods, for example, apple, avocado, banana, chestnut, kiwi(2)

Latex allergy is most often seen in groups considered high risk, according to the American Latex Allergy Association. “It affects 8-18% of health care workers and up to 68% of children with spina bifida (related to frequent surgeries).”(3) Anyone with a history of multiple surgeries is also at increased risk.(3) For some people, an allergic reaction may be triggered by breathing in latex fibers in the air, for others the reaction is caused by skin contact with latex.(1)

Latex allergy symptoms may include: hives, swelling, runny nose, headache, reddened eyes, and wheezing. If exposure continues, anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction, may result.(3) Latex allergy is diagnosed by a blood test. People with a latex allergy are advised to wear medical alert identification and to carry an epinephrine auto-injector.(2)

New cases of latex allergy are diagnosed less frequently now than decades ago, because healthcare facilities are using non-latex gloves and products.(1)

(1) Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Latex Allergy, https://www.aafa.org/latex-allergy/

(2) American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Latex Allergy, https://acaai.org/allergies/types/latex-allergy

(3) The American Latex Allergy Association, What is Latex Allergy, https://www.allergyhome.org/