latex allergy: "stretching" your knowledge

The Allergy Kit

About Latex Allergy


Learn to minimize and eliminate symptoms caused by latex allergy. Symptoms, hidden sources, and treatment, including a breakthrough that can eliminate your symptoms permanently!

Latex originates from the rubber tree, Hevea Brasiliensis, as a milky sap that is tapped from the tree. Because of its elastic properties, latex is utilized in a variety of products, including: automobile tires, pencil erasers, rubber gloves, swim suits, and shoe soles. There are dipped latex products, such as balloons and gloves, and there’s molded products; the dipped products are said to be more allergenic, causing more problems for those with this allergy.

Although latex was first discovered in the mid-18th century, it wasn’t widely used until the 1950s. Latex allergy, however, did not become a problem immediately. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979 that the first case was reported in the medical literature. Later, in 1989, the Food and Drug Administration was made aware that patients were going into anaphylactic shock during certain medical procedures. It was discovered that the latex tip of an enema hose was inducing the attacks during barium enemas.

Since the first reported attacks from this substance, latex allergy has increased dramatically. Experts do not know exactly why, but they do have theories. It is postulated that medical practitioners are taking greater precautions, wearing latex gloves due to infectious diseases such as aids. For example, this allergy particularly affects medical workers, dental workers, and medical housekeeping staff because they wear latex gloves on a regular basis.

latex allergy: exposure

The greatest exposure to latex is caused by rubber gloves. In fact, the FDA mandated in 1998 that manufacturers of these gloves put warning labels on their products. You might ask why these gloves are so popular given the allergy problems they cause. Compared to vinyl gloves, latex offers distinct advantages: latex creates a more long-lasting barrier to diseases than vinyl; latex has a great ability to stretch than vinyl; latex conforms to the shape of your hand better than vinyl; and latex allows the hands greater sensitivity, which is a requirement in many medical occupations.

The second greatest exposure to latex is caused by automobile tires, where tire fragments become concentrated on busy streets and highways. Higher rates of asthma have been discovered among people who live near highways and this very well may come from the tire fragments that accumulate there. Aside from tires, however, there are approximately 40,000 products that contain latex, as the following chart illustrates:

Common Sources of Latex
adhesives balloons
bandages band-aides
blood pressure cuffs carpet backing
catheters condoms
diaphragms dishwashing gloves
elastic bags elasticized clothing
ear syringes enema bags
erasers face masks
foam rubber medical gloves
pacifiers postage stamps
rubber bands rubber boots
rubber dams (dental) rubber stoppers
shoe soles sports equipment
stethoscope tubing swimsuits

(from “Allergy Relief & Prevention,” by Jacqueline Krohn, 2000, p. 184)

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latex allergy symptoms

Latex allergy occurs in less than 1% of the population, but its symptoms have consequences that can be quite serious, unlike the symptoms of other allergies. This allergy has caused people to give-up their jobs and or change professions! This is due to the fact that latex is such a common part of medical equipment as well as the gloves worn by medical professionals. Even if an allergic individual wears vinyl gloves, they are still surrounded by latex in the medical environment.

There are two categories of reactions that come from latex exposure. When the reaction is to the chemicals that are added to latex, contact dermatitis will occur within two days after exposure. When the reaction is to latex protein, it usually occurs within 15 minutes of exposure and can include a range of symptoms, including:

● skin rash

● itching

● hives

● swollen red skin

● tears

● itching or burning eyes

● swollen lips and tongue

● difficulty breathing, wheezing

● shortness of breath

● dizziness

● fainting

● abdominal pain

● nausea

● diarrhea

(from “Allergies Sourcebook,” by Linda Ross, 1997, p. 421-422)

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latex allergy treatment

The primary treatment that conventional medicine offers is avoidance; doctors will tell us to avoid latex if we are allergic to this substance. Once we are experiencing symptoms from an exposure to latex, the following treatments are recommended:

Topical Corticosteroids - used to treat the contact dermatitis that results from exposure to the chemicals in latex.

Antihistamines - used to treat the redness, itching, hives, and angiodema resulting from exposure to the latex protein.

Epinephrine - used when the allergic reaction is severe.

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The Allergy Kit

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Krohn, Jacqueline. Allergy Relief & Prevention. Vancouver, B.C. : Hartley & Marks Publishers Inc., 2000.

Kwong, Frank & Cook, Bruce. The Complete Allergy Book. Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2002.

Ross, Linda. Allergies Sourcebook. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, Inc., 1997.

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