From balloons to baby bottle teats, rubber toys and even clothing elastic, latex can be found in a myriad of everyday items. Derived from the rubber tree, latex is a highly common product, however some people’s bodies have a sneaky way of mistaking it as a harmful substance. This is known as a latex allergy.
While this common condition can be overcome by avoiding latex products and asking healthcare providers to use and wear appropriately latex-free items such as nitrile and vinyl Munn gloves, it’s still important to remain mindful of how your body reacts to this substance.
If you think you may have a latex allergy, the following information can help you understand a little more about how to recognise your symptoms and prevent allergic reactions.
In essence, there are three types of adverse reactions to latex. Irritant dermatitis refers to the development of crusty skin lesions when exposed to latex. This in itself is not an allergy, however it can lead to the development of one as latex is absorbed into the broken skin.
Allergic contact dermatitis is another type of reaction to latex which is not strictly considered an allergy. Herein, rough skin or a weeping rash may develop in reaction to the chemicals added to latex products.
Conversely, an immediate-type latex allergy is where your body registers latex as ‘harmful’ and subsequently sends a message for antibodies to be released to fight it off. Upon a second exposure, those antibodies then adopt the role of releasing chemicals into your bloodstream which culminate in the symptoms listed below.
Commonly mild symptoms associated with latex allergies include itchy skin, redness, and a rash. A more severe reaction will often manifest in a runny nose and sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, a scratchy throat, and even difficulty breathing.
At the most severe end, a latex allergy can result in anaphylaxis. This can be deadly. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, swelling, wheezing, dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness, rapid or weak pulse, and a decrease in blood pressure.
The degree of severity usually depends on one of two things: the person’s sensitivity to latex, and the amount of exposure. It’s also important to keep in mind that sensitivity can increase with each additional exposure, meaning your symptoms may start off on the more mild side the first few times you encounter latex before developing into more severe reactions.
While direct contact with latex that is, physically touching latex products is considered the most common cause of an allergic reaction, inhalation of latex can also trigger symptoms. An example of this may be when the powder coating latex gloves is released into the air and breathed in.
Importantly, if you suspect you may be suffering from a latex allergy, you should seek a formal diagnosis from a doctor. No matter the severity of the condition, an allergy is an allergy this is something that will need to be recorded when it comes to all kinds of healthcare exams and procedures.
By keeping your doctor, nurse or dentist informed of your allergy, they will know to avoid latex gloves while treating you. In addition if the allergy is life-threatening, you will need to wear a medical alert bracelet.