Latex is a substance that is found in certain plants, including a tree named Hevea brasiliensis, that is also called a rubber tree. The latex is transformed into various products of common use according to two methods:
- 90% of the latex is coagulated to enter the composition of rubber products such as tires or shoe soles. The high temperature treatment denatures certain proteins, which makes them less allergenic.
- 10% of the latex is treated with chemicals. Various molds are then dipped into products such as gloves, condoms and balloons. In this case the proteins are little denatured and more allergenic.
What are the symptoms of latex allergy?
The symptoms depend on the mechanism of the reaction.
I.e.-mediated allergic reaction
When an antibody called I.e. is present, the reactions include: urticarial (red, itchy skin that appears immediately after contact with a latex product), rhino-conjunctivitis, or asthma (sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, breathing difficulties after handling a latex product) or anaphylaxis. Some people with this type of latex allergy may also have symptoms with certain fruits, mainly: banana, avocado, chestnut, kiwi. You also need to know how to treat an allergic reaction to latex.
It does not involve I.e. and often associated with the chemicals used in the transformation of the latex, is manifested 1 to 4 days after exposure to latex in the form of small bubbles on the skin and then dry red plates and crusts.
Finally, many people wearing regular latex gloves complain of red, dry, irritated skin. Without specifically having an allergy to latex, these people have an irritating rash due to occlusion, contact with powder gloves, frequent washing of hands.
How is a latex allergy diagnosed?
The signs and symptoms that a person develops during contact with the latex help the doctor in his diagnosis. Allergy skin tests with a latex extract determine if antibodies (I.e.) are involved. Sometimes a blood test to detect I.e. against the latex may be required.
What are the treatments for a latex allergy?
It is important to avoid products containing latex or rubber, both at work and at home. Depending on the type of reaction, the doctor will prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector (egg: Pippen ®) to allow the patient to treat a severe allergic reaction in case of accidental exposure. A medical bracelet on which allergy to latex is mentioned is also recommended. Some patients will keep latex-free gloves with them for emergencies.
Where is the latex?
The main sources of latex are: medical gloves and rubber gloves (for washing dishes), balloon, condom, diaphragm, bandage, pacifier, various medical supplies and dentistry. Always inquire and check the composition of products. Alternatives to latex and rubber are vinyl, polyurethane, silicone, etc.
Can I have surgery if I have an allergy to latex?
Yes, you must always warn the nursing staff (doctor, nurse, and dentist) of latex allergy when you come for surgery and for all other procedures. Some hospitals have a policy that minimizes overall latex exposure by choosing products with little or no latex. Other institutions have specific guidelines when a latex-allergic patient comes for surgery.
The latex is extracted from a tree, hevea brasiliensis, and it is used for the manufacture of rubber. Used in many products, latex can cause allergies in the skin, eyes or respiratory tract. Usually these allergies are moderate, but they can sometimes be very severe. Therefore, when you think you are allergic, it is very important to:
Confirm it with skin tests performed by an allergist
- Know all sources of latex to avoid them.
- Latex allergy can start at any age, especially in people exposed to repeated contact with latex objects. Some professions such as nurses are particularly exposed (wearing gloves).
Symptoms of latex allergy
Skin irritation in contact with the latex:
- Redness and itching of varying importance (urticarial);
- Respiratory and ocular difficulties caused by the manipulation of latex objects.
- Sneezing and runny nose:
- Cough, shortness of breath;
- Irritation of the eyes, redness, watery eyes.
- Sometimes the symptoms are much more important:
- Feeling of asphyxia by edema of the larynx, asthma;
State of allergic shock with loss of consciousness (especially if the allergic person is operated by a surgeon wearing latex gloves).
Cross allergies to certain foods can also be seen:
- Avocado (present also in some cosmetics)
Treatment of latex allergy
For the time being, there is no specific desensitization treatment. The eviction must be total.
Latex allergy: general advice
- The patient should always report the allergy to their doctor, surgeon or dentist. Under no circumstances should they wear latex gloves for examination or surgery, as this may cause severe allergic shock. The use of medical equipment containing latex (bladder or gastric probes, infusions, etc.) should also be prohibited.
- Wear a card mentioning latex allergy for the information of first aiders and doctors in case of accident.
- Avoid contact with latex objects.
For the protection of the hands, various solutions are possible:
- Textile gloves under rubber gloves;
- Or hypo-allergenic gloves (vinyl or neoprene).
- Do not inflate rubber balloons. At the pool avoid bathing caps, fins, glasses.
- Avoid fruits and plants that can give cross allergies.
- Be very careful with bananas and especially avocados and check the composition of some cosmetic creams;
- Do not have focus at home.
- For condoms, several brands offer no latex.
The tactile properties of rubber are still very popular. But there is a catch: this material is responsible for potentially severe allergies.
Like hay fever, the main risk factor for latex allergy is atop. Rubber is an especially professional allergen. Its flexible shape is much more allergenic than its hard version, used in bicycle handles for example. The thick household gloves offered in supermarkets, as well as the fine gloves without talc, however pose little problem. This powder, based on corn starch, has a tendency to disseminate latex particles in the air that can lead to asthma attacks in sensitized persons. This is why the use of latex-coated gloves, associated with a high risk of allergy, is gradually being abandoned among health professionals. Today, aware of the problem, many hospitals become "latex free" and replace their equipment with polyvinyl gloves. However, sometimes, it just goes down with the quality of latex. For more info, click here.