Latex allergy is a specific allergy that occurs rarely, but is very problematic for the patient. It can appear at any age, regardless of gender, so it’s important to know what its main symptoms are. What causes an allergy?
Latex is a type of material whose molecules bind to the proteins in our skin, which in some cases produces allergenic substances that are “remembered” by our immune system. The body begins to defend itself against the allergenic factor, and this process causes unpleasant ailments that hinder normal functioning. That is why people allergic to latex should, first of all, avoid the allergen, which is found in condoms, mattresses or rubber gloves, among others. Where does latex allergy come from and how is it diagnosed? What are the main symptoms of a latex allergy? What is the treatment? You can find all the necessary information in the article below!
Latex allergy – causes
Latex allergy most often occurs in people who are also allergic to other substances. This mainly applies to allergies to birch, grass, grain, ambrosia or mugwort. We then have a so-called “cross-allergy”. In many cases, latex allergy is caused by too frequent exposure to the allergen, such as the daily use of latex gloves. Therefore, health care workers who, apart from gloves, use threads, catheters, droppers, masks and cannulas with an admixture of latex are at risk of allergy.
Patients who have been in hospital for a long time and have had constant contact with hospital items containing latex are also at risk. People with spinal injuries or spina bifida are also at risk. Latex allergy can occur at any time in life.
Latex – what is it and where does it occur?
Latex is made from the Hevea Brasiliensis rubber tree – it consists of the plant’s processed milk sap to which chemicals are added. Their purpose is to give the latex specific properties such as flexibility. The unusual Hevea Brasiliensis tree occurs naturally in the Amazon rainforest, but is also grown in Africa and Asia for the production of rubber.
Natural latex from an exotic tree is good for the environment as it is a renewable product. Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is made of synthetic rubber and may be in a liquid form. It is obtained by emulsion polymerization of specific monomers. Then, after acidifying or adding the right amount of salt, you get the so-called solid rubber. It is used in various industries – mainly in the automotive industry (including the production of tires). Rubber is also used to make seals, balls, latex gloves and latex foam, used in the production of furniture and mattresses. Latex mattresses have many beneficial properties, including they are resistant to fungi and damage.
Latex is found in many everyday products, such as children’s toys, balloons, rubber bands, rubber boots, bath mats, adhesive tape, rainwear, elastic bands, pacifiers, teethers.
Symptoms of latex allergy
Latex allergy causes symptoms similar to food allergies, so it can be very difficult to diagnose it. The main symptoms of a latex allergy are:
- rhinitis (sneezing, watery, runny nose, itchy throat)
- symptoms of bronchial asthma
- redness in the latex-exposed area
- skin changes
Latex allergy is very often diagnosed only after the use of a condom, which causes a severe allergic reaction. Both men and women may experience itching, pain and burning in the intimate areas. Interestingly, the symptoms of latex allergy may appear immediately (maximum 30 minutes after contact with the material), then the reaction is immediate, or within 48 hours. In this case, we are talking about contact eczema, which appears after long contact of the skin with latex material. How to recognize inflammation?
Allergic contact eczema is inflammatory lesions that occur in a specific place on the skin. Most eczema appears on the outside of the hand, although it can also affect the arms, face and genitals. Depending on the severity of the changes, we distinguish between acute and subacute eczema. The eruptions are very often accompanied by itching and small blisters which disappear on their own after a few days. The duration of the changes usually depends on the intensity of contact with the allergen – sometimes it can last up to several weeks. It is worth knowing that in some cases there are cyclical recurrences of contact eczema – that is why proper prevention is so important.
Anaphylactic shock – how is it manifested and is it life threatening?
Anaphylactic shock may be one of the reactions of an organism allergic to contact with latex. During anaphylactic shock, a sharp drop in blood pressure can occur, leading to unconsciousness and, in severe cases, fatal, so prompt response is important. Death can also be caused by the swelling of the throat tissues, preventing the patient from breathing normally. If we notice the first symptoms of an anaphylactic shock, we should call an ambulance as soon as possible. It is also very important to give the patient adrenaline as soon as possible – people who are allergic should always have a small dose of it at home. The factor that caused the shock must also be removed. The first symptoms of anaphylactic shock are severe dizziness, hoarseness, palpitations, shortness of breath and vomiting.
Latex and fruit syndrome – what is it about?
This is a specific form of latex allergy that occurs in people who are allergic to foods that cross-react with latex allergens. The structure of some latex proteins resembles the structure of proteins found in specific fruits. That is why an allergic reaction may occur in an allergic person after their consumption. The body then reacts in exactly the same way as when it comes into contact with the latex. Products that cause clinical symptoms of allergy include bananas, avocados, kiwi fruit, chestnuts and stone fruit (plums, mangoes, peaches). People allergic to latex should also exclude highly processed products (sauces, stuffings) from the diet. Certain vegetables should be avoided, including tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and celery. Cherries, apricots, lychees, figs, grapes,
Symptoms of latex fruit syndrome include hives, conjunctivitis, vomiting, and at worst, anaphylactic shock. Interestingly, latex-fruit syndrome can also appear in children who are allergic to pollen. The best way to prevent an allergic reaction from occurring is to avoid these products.
Latex allergy – diagnosis. What tests should be performed?
First of all, remember not to ignore the first symptoms of allergy, because frequent contact with an allergen may aggravate the symptoms and lead to many serious complications. The sooner To diagnose latex allergy, a number of basic tests should be performed, such as patch tests, specific IgE and PTS (skin prick tests). To diagnose fruit-latex syndrome, native skin tests (prick by prick) are performed, using fresh, most allergenic fruits (such as banana, kiwi and avocado).
If, despite severe symptoms, the test results are negative, the doctor usually orders a provocation test. It consists in inhaling the patient in gradually increasing doses of the allergen.
Latex allergy – treatment
We should remember that the most effective prevention and treatment is the complete elimination of the allergenic factor from the patient’s environment. A person allergic to latex should also avoid foods that cause cross-reactions. Unfortunately, antihistamines for allergy sufferers are ineffective against latex allergy. In some cases, immunotherapy is used to eliminate disorders of the immune system of an allergic person. However, this is not standard practice. Immunotherapy is only used for severe symptoms.
If the allergy has caused contact eczema, it is very important to choose a topical preparation – usually special substances with disinfecting and anti-swelling properties are recommended, for example compresses made of boric acid solution or potassium permanganate. The treatment also includes corticosteroid preparations that narrow blood vessels and reduce inflammation.
With a confirmed latex allergy, patients should avoid contact with the allergen, which forces some people to change jobs. If this is not possible, the allergic person should use latex-free gloves made of neoprene or non-alkali low-protein gloves, which are available, among others, in medical wholesalers. Fortunately, there are more and more latex-free products that only imitate latex.
Latex allergy and choosing the right condom
When it comes to contraceptives, remember that the most important thing is to choose trusted partners. In a stable relationship, we can consider a variety of contraceptive methods such as pills, spermicidal gels and implants that women can use.
What condom will not trigger allergy symptoms in a latex allergy sufferer? Although allergy sufferers cannot use classic condoms, there is an excellent alternative on the market – special silicone and polyurethane condoms. These materials imitate latex, making them comfortable and flexible. When it comes to their operation, they are no different from classic condoms. These types of condoms are designed not only for people who are allergic to latex – they are also a great way to gain new erotic experiences. The silicone condom is made of a very thin material that allows for a deeper sensation. Non-latex condoms come in a variety of sizes and prices. Manufacturers offer various types of condom additives, such as flavored lubricants. Due to their diversity, everyone will find something for themselves.