Allergy to latex

Latex comes from the sap of hevea brasiliensis. Latex allergy affects an increasing number of people, approximately 1 to 5% of the population.

It affects particular individuals who are repeatedly exposed to latex, for example those who wear protective gloves in the medical industry.

Where is latex found?

Latex is present everywhere around us.
  • Household gloves
  • Tires
  • Balloons
  • Teats
  • Scuba diving snorkels
  • Flippers
  • Swimming goggles
  • Swiming cap
  • Glue
  • Tennis racket grips
  • Condoms .
  • Medical items: elastic bandages, syringes with rubber seals, probes, mattress cover, drips, dental splints and examination or surgeon gloves...

(Non exhaustive list)

People who are likely to develop an allergy to latex

  • 5% to 22% of medical personnel, nurses, doctors, surgeons, physiotherapists, chiropodists...
  • Patients who go through surgery several times because they are frequently in contact with material containing latex.
  • Laboratory personnel and hairdressers.
  • People working in the rubber industry
  • People allergic to bananas, kiwis, seafood
  • Cleaners

Several hospitals replaced powdered latex gloves with non powdered non latex gloves.
Unfortunately, these gloves are expensive and some hospitals cannot afford such gloves.

Reactions caused by an allergy to latex can be sometimes violent

Latex can cause allergic symptoms a few minutes after contact: conjunctivitis, rhinitis, asthma, hives, angioedema, and sometimes anaphylactic shock.
Some hypersensitive people develop reactions without having had any direct contact with latex, while entering for example a room where latex balloons are floating about.
Latex can be responsible for severe incidents during surgical operations.

Cross-reactive allergies with latex

The most frequent cross-reactive allergies are observed with
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Kiwi
  • Chestnuts
  • Papaya
  • Grapes
  • Passion Fruit
  • Spinach
  • Peach

Cross-reactive allergy between latex and ficus benjamina.

Some cosmetics contain avocado and must be avoided.

Latex free condoms: some examples

  • Avanti condom from Durex made of polyurethane.
  • Original condom from Protex made of polyurethane.
  • Manix Crystal Condoms are hypoallergenic and made of de-proteinised latex.

Female condoms also exist without latex such as Femidom.

Latex free condoms are more expensive than other condoms. Compare prices because they can be different from one chemist to another.

Precautions to follow as latex allergy sufferer

  • Always carry a card stating your allergy to latex
  • Have within reach an emergency kit containing steroid drugs, a bronchodilatator (ventolin inhaler) and an auto-injection adrenalin syringe.
  • Know the objects, food, cosmetics, house plants containing latex proteins which can cause allergic symptoms.
  • Always inform your doctor, gynaecologist, dentist, surgeon and anaesthetist about your allergy to latex - every time you see them.
  • In the event of a surgical operation, the allergic patients will have to be dealt with at the beginning of an operational session in an atmosphere clear of latex particles.
  • Use vinyl gloves for household chores.
  • Have an allergy assessment as soon as an allergy to latex is suspected.

Guidelines before an anaesthestic at the time of a surgical operation

Allergy to latex represents the second cause of anaphylactic shock during anaesthesia. At the time of a surgical operation, it is essential that people allergic to latex avoid absolutely any contact with materials containing latex.
  • The allergic person must be the first one to be operated in the operating theater in order to avoid contact with latex proteins which can be present after the use of gloves at the time of preceding interventions.
  • All the team members must know the patient's specific allergies.
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