Treating Latex Allergy
When Alex was in dental hygiene school, she suddenly developed allergy symptoms—sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and hives on her hands. She couldn’t think of any new exposures that would cause her symptoms, except for the school environment. After visiting her doctor, she was surprised to learn that the latex gloves she had been wearing in school were causing her symptoms. Alex was diagnosed with a latex allergy.
What Is Latex Allergy?Natural rubber latex is manufactured from a milky fluid found in the common rubber tree (also called the Para rubber tree or sharinga tree). Many products we use at home, work, and school contain latex, including:
- Disposable gloves
- Rubber bands
- Adhesive tape and bandages
- Baby bottle nipples
- Rubber aprons
Reactions to LatexThree types of reactions can occur in people using latex products: irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, and latex allergy.
- Irritant contact dermatitis —The development of dry, itchy, irritated areas on the skin, usually the hands. The irritation is caused by using gloves, and possibly by contact with other products and chemicals. Irritant contact dermatitis is not a true allergy to latex. It comes on gradually over the course of several days.
- Allergic contact dermatitis (also known as delayed hypersensitivity or chemical sensitivity dermatitis)—A rash similar to poison ivy, which results from exposure to chemicals added to latex during harvesting, processing, or manufacturing. The rash usually begins 12-48 hours after contact.
- Latex allergy (also known as immediate hypersensitivity)—A more serious reaction to latex than irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis.
- Red skin
- Runny nose
- Trouble breathing
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Chest tightness