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Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests For Latex Allergy

Submitted on March 27, 2012

A latex allergy is allergy to any form of rubber latex. The protein in the latex is what causes an allergic reaction. This protein comes from the milky fluid used from the rubber tree. This fluid is modified to be used commercially as a latex mixture. A person could be allergic to latex or the latex mixture, or in severe cases, both. Most products are dipped in the latex mixture which is washed once dried. This is what causes the most amount of allergic reactions as these products are rarely washed properly. If products are laminated using latex, there is less of a chance of an allergic reaction to latex.

Tests Recommended

People who have a family history of allergies are most likely to get an allergy to latex. To detect a latex allergy, two primary tests are done. First is a skin test where a patch of skin is exposed to latex. This is one of the most common ways of detecting an allergy to a particular substance. The other test is a blood test. The blood test measures your immune system's reaction to antibodies similar to latex. An allergy can be determined depending on the level of antibodies in the blood.

Symptoms

Surgical gloves and their powder is a big source of latex allergies all over the world. Gloves are often snapped off, causing a combination of cornstarch and latex particulate matter to get inhaled. In a bid to reduce latex allergies, people ask that gloves not be dusted with cornstarch to reduce the incidence of latex in the air. Latex is present in over 40,000 products and can be a life-threatening allergy. Latex allergy symptoms are of different hypersensitivity grades.

The most serious, grade 1, is a life threatening reaction. It usually causes a severe anaphylactic shock. People who have this kind of an allergy are even allergic to latex in everyday items like rubber gloves, condoms, pacifiers, balloons, cars and clothes that contain natural rubber. Type 2 to type 5 can cause symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis with varying degrees of irritation depending on the severity of the reaction and other environmental factors. Latex allergy even has regular allergy symptoms like runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, hives, chest tightness and shortness of breath. If the person loses consciousness the person suffering from a latex allergy needs immediate medical attention. Sometimes just touching a latex product is not enough to trigger an allergy and you need to inhale the latex particles after which latex allergy symptoms will get triggered.

Causes

Latex allergy has different causes and puts different sets of people at risk for this allergy. The most common cause of a latex allergy is constantly wearing garments that have latex.

Latex tends to leave particles behind which cause the allergic reaction. Industrial rubber workers and healthcare workers are the ones who are most likely to suffer from it because they work with various forms of latex for long hours. Some of the everyday products that contain latex are waistbands on clothing, pacifiers and baby bottle nipples, adhesive tape and bandages, diapers, sanitary pads, medical instruments like stethoscope, rubber bands and rubber toys. Even children who have had multiple surgical procedures are known to often have a latex allergy. Children born with a birth defect spina bifida often show an allergy to latex. Often people who are allergic to particular foods stand a higher chance of being allergic to latex as these foods contain the same allergens. If you are allergic to kiwi, avocado, chestnut, banana and passion fruit, you should get yourself tested for a latex allergy.

Treatment

For an anaphylactic shock, the latex allergy treatment is immediate medical intervention. Any delay can lead to serious complications. In such cases, you would need an injection of epinephrine, steroids and oxygen. People who suffer from a latex allergy should also carry an injection of epinephrine with them to avoid delay. That is why the best prescribed treatment for latex is also avoiding latex altogether. There are drugs and ointments to reduce the symptoms of a latex allergy but like all allergy there is no cure. It is important to reduce your exposure to latex. You should keep track of what contains natural latex and stay away from those items. People around you should also be aware that you suffer from this allergy so that in case you are not able to seek help yourself. If you work in an industry which demands you wear gloves and use instruments that contain latex, talk to your employer and find viable alternatives. There are products that are also categorized as hypoallergenic. This might not always suit you. There are natural skin condoms that you could use in place of latex condoms that could be allergic to you or your partner. You could use these to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

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