5 Reasons Why You Should Not Forget about Latex Allergy
VIENNA, VA, SEPTEMBER 16, 2022 – Food, insect venom and medication allergies often lead the headlines. This sometimes leaves latex as the forgotten allergen.
Latex allergy is a unique health condition that affects up to 6% of the U.S. population. Some reactions are mild, resulting in hives, skin redness and itching, and respiratory problems. Other reactions can turn serious and even lead to a life-threatening allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis.
“Latex allergy – Feeling Forgotten? Advocating Since 1991” is the theme of this year’s Latex Allergy Awareness Week from Sunday, Oct. 2 to Saturday, Oct. 8. The first reported case of a fatal allergic reaction to latex occurred in 1991. Since then, Allergy & Asthma Network has been committed to raising awareness and educating people about latex allergy.
Here are 5 reasons why you should not forget about latex allergy:
- The only way for people with latex allergy to prevent symptoms is strict avoidance of latex. This means avoiding the use of more than 40,000 products that may contain latex, including:
- latex gloves
- rubber bands
- elastic bands
- mouse pads
- pacifiers and baby bottle nipples
- garden hoses
- Vial stoppers used to store many vaccines sometimes contain latex. The good news is that all four of the available COVID-19 vaccines use vial stoppers that are NOT made with latex. People with latex allergy are not at risk for a latex-allergy reaction from COVID-19 vial stoppers. Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine makers do note that “we cannot guarantee that the materials do not come in contact with latex/synthetic rubber during the manufacturing or packaging process (e.g. latex gloves).”
- Some of the proteins in natural rubber latex are similar to those found in cross-reactive fruits and vegetables. People with latex allergy may experience a reaction after eating:
- Bell Peppers
Get a complete list of latex cross-reactive foods in our digital publication, “Latex Allergy: A Practical Guide for Patients and Providers.”
People with latex allergy may also experience a reaction if they touch poinsettia plants. These traditional holiday flowers contain latex.
- Latex allergy is much more common in people who work in the medical or dental fields. In fact, 10-17% of healthcare workers and 33.8% of dental workers have been diagnosed with latex allergy. In addition, 17% of restaurant workers have been diagnosed with latex allergy. Many of the workers developed the condition due to overuse of latex gloves.
- Schools should identify students with latex allergy and educate staff about the need to minimize latex exposure. Many products in schools may contain latex, including:
- Rubber mats in gyms class
- Rubber balls
- Art supplies
- Science and lab equipment
What can people with latex allergy do to prevent allergic reactions?
- Check with manufacturers to find out if their products contain latex.
- Identify alternative products – such as Mylar® balloons – that do not contain latex. Share with others who are allergic to latex.
- Read food labels to confirm ingredients do not contain any of your latex cross-reactive foods.
- Talk with restaurant staff to ensure kitchen staff do not use latex gloves when making meals.
- Check with your doctor about the potential for latex exposure before receiving a vaccine.
Allergy & Asthma Network’s digital publication, “Latex Allergy: A Practical Guide for Patients and Providers,” is available as a free download on AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org. The guidebook includes sections on understanding your latex allergy diagnosis, cross-reactivity, how to avoid exposure, and treatment for severe reactions.
Every year during Latex Allergy Awareness Week, Allergy & Asthma Network raises awareness about latex allergy and distributes patient education resources in print and online. The week highlights the issues facing people with latex allergy and encourages them to stay vigilant in reducing or eliminating exposure to latex. With awareness and education, patients can live a full and active life.
Latex Allergy Awareness Week began in 1997 with educational seminars and poster displays for allergists, hospitals and medical professionals. Interest in latex allergy has grown through the years; many parents, children, school staff, healthcare workers and restaurant owners are eager to learn what they can do to provide a latex-safe environment.