Latex AllergyNatural rubber latex comes from the sap of the rubber tree. Allergic reactions to latex products occur because certain people become allergic to the various proteins in natural rubber latex.

Latex is found in many products including balloons, tyres, shoes, grips on tools and sporting equipment, and is a common part of medical and dental equipment such as disposable gloves, rubber dams, tubing, catheters and many other products.

People may react to rubber products in a number of ways. Those who need to wear rubber gloves frequently as part of their occupation may develop an irritant hand dermatitis that results from heat, sweating and friction. This is not an allergic response.

Another group of people develop an allergic contact dermatitis. This is caused by a sensitivity to chemicals used in the manufacture of the rubber products. This causes an eczema- like reaction most commonly on the hands but also at other sites of contact with the rubber product. While this can be very uncomfortable, this type of reaction does not cause anaphylaxis or symptoms of an immediate allergic reaction.

Immediate allergic reactions to latex may be serious and can result in anaphylaxis (a generalized, severe allergic reaction). Some people are at a higher risk of developing latex allergy, especially if they have other allergies such as atopic dermatitis, hayfever or certain food allergies.

Those more at risk include:

  • Latex AllergyHealth care workers who have high exposure to rubber gloves in their work
  • People who have had multiple operations, especially children with spina bifida
  • People who work in the rubber industry.

If people with latex allergy are exposed to latex during a dental or medical procedure where latex gloves are used, or if they blow up balloons, then an allergic reaction may occur and this may include development of itch, hives, wheezing, symptoms of hayfever and in severe cases, may result in an anaphylactic reaction.

People with latex allergy may also have allergic symptoms to certain foods and these range from mild itching of the mouth and throat to more serious reactions upon eating the food.

Foods most likely to cause problems in latex-allergic people include avocado, kiwi, pineapple, banana, melons, raw potato and tomato, papaya, chestnut, apple.

Latex allergy is usually diagnosed by the history in a person with the risk factors listed above and confirmed with blood and skin tests performed by an allergy specialist.

The only effective treatment of latex allergy is avoidance. If there is a severe latex allergy, the affected person must have a self administered adrenaline device and be instructed how and when to use it and should wear a medical identification bracelet or similar warning. Any treating doctor or dentist must be informed of this allergy.

Latex AllergyLatex free gloves are readily available and will be used for any procedure on a latex –allergic person. Most medical equipment now comes latex-free.

For more information on latex allergy go to:


Prepared by Professor CH Katelaris November 2012

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