What Are Latex Allergies?
Latex allergies involve an immune response from the body that is triggered by exposure to materials and objects that include latex. While many people work under the misconception that a latex allergy involves an allergic reaction to a chemical substance, latex allergies actually involve an allergic reaction to the natural proteins found in rubber. In a latex allergy, the body confuses the proteins in rubber with a harmful, invasive substance.
After the body’s first exposure to latex, it produces antibodies in response. The next time the body is exposed to latex, these antibodies then trigger a histamine reaction in response to fight back against the ‘threatening’ substance. This process is known as sensitization and establishes the pattern of allergic response in the body.
The allergic response an individual can have to latex can range from mild to quite severe. In the most severe cases, a latex allergy can be life threatening. The majority of cases, however, involve a mild to moderate allergic response. Since even a moderate response can create discomfort and since latex is present in many modern day tools and accessories, those with latex allergies need to work with an allergist to develop a treatment plan and list of objects to avoid.
Types of Latex Allergies
While all latex allergies are triggered by the protein in the rubber plant, latex allergies can manifest in a number of different ways.
The most common way to trigger a latex allergy is through direct contact with a product that contains latex. Latex-containing products include many commonly used household items and medical accessories.
Patients can also trigger a latex allergy by inhaling latex. Latex products such as gloves can release some particles of latex into the air, especially when removing tight gloves. Finally, patients may also experience allergic contact dermatitis when they come into contact with latex products. This type of allergic reaction is actually triggered by the chemical additives used in the creation of latex products.
Latex Allergy Symptoms
Signs of latex allergy vary widely from mild symptoms to severe and life-threatening symptoms. Any patient experiencing latex allergy symptoms that cause discomfort or interfere with their quality of life should seek out medical attention.
What Does a Latex Allergy Look Like?
Mild symptoms associated with latex allergies include:
- Hives or development of a latex allergy rash
- Skin redness
In some cases, a patient may develop contact dermatitis after exposure to latex. This is not an allergic reaction but an associated condition that often appears with allergies.
Moderate to severe symptoms associated with latex allergies include:
- Respiratory distress, such as sneezing or a runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Irritated, scratchy throat
- Difficulty breathing
Severe and Life-threatening symptoms associated with latex allergies include anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis signs include:
Anyone experiencing anaphylaxis and its associated symptoms should seek out medical attention right away.