Latex Allergy: Down but not Out!
Although new cases of latex allergy are becoming less common, there are many patients who continue to deal with latex allergy day to day, everyday!
Use of natural rubber latex is ubiquitous (fancy word for “it’s everywhere”). What’s the difference between a rubber car tire and a rubber glove? No, that’s not a joke. This comparison points out the difference between a pressed rubber product and a dipped rubber product during the manufacturing process. Dipped rubber products include latex gloves, catheters, condoms and balloons. They tend to have more natural rubber latex protein on their surface that can becomes airborne or in contact with a person’s skin or mucus membranes. Pressed rubber products such as pacifiers, rubber bands, and tires and have been responsible for few acute allergic reactions to rubber.
- IgE Allergic reactions to rubber are due to allergy to the natural rubber tree proteins in the sap. This reaction can be seen as asthma, rhinitis (nasal itching/sneezing), hives, swelling or even anaphylaxis. An allergy blood test to IgE to latex can help diagnose this form, but “false negative” test results are fairly common.
- Contact Dermatitis (allergic rash) to rubber is due to the chemicals used to “vulcanize” the rubber proteins. This reaction is only a rash (not hives) and similar to allergic reactions to nickel for example. A skin Patch Test can be useful in identifying the chemical or chemicals responsible in this form.
It is important to know which kind of “rubber allergy” you suffer from, as the potential severity is quite different. Avoidance measures are still the mainstay of treatment for latex allergy. Synthetic latex products (nitrile) is an acceptable substitute especially for gloves.
The American Latex Allergy Association (ALAA) is a great organization to provide educational resources and list of acceptable substitutes for common natural latex products. For more information go to: http://www.latexallergyresources.org/
At Family Allergy & Asthma Care of Montana, we care for those affected with or concerned about latex allergy.
This information is solely for informational purposes and not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional.