Latex Allergies

A latex allergy is a reaction to the substances in natural rubber, or natural latex. Although there is no definitive cause for this reaction, most allergists assert that the cause of the reaction is repeated exposure. You can get tests and treatment for latex allergies at the Center for Allergy & Asthma of Georgia, with locations throughout Metro Atlanta.

Who Is at Risk for Developing a Latex Allergy?

Health care employees are most susceptible to latex allergies – about 5% to 10% have some form of latex allergy – but there are other people who are at an increased risk to develop latex allergies.

Those people include anyone with:

• Defective bone marrow cells
• Bladder or urinary tract deformation
• Multiple surgeries
• Eczema, asthma, or other allergies
• Food allergies to avocados, kiwis, chestnuts or bananas

Because latex allergies are developed over periods of exposure, those who are employed in the rubber industry are additionally at risk of developing a latex allergy. Additional latex exposure channels include mucous membranes, inhalation of the powder contained within rubber gloves, and blood exposure due to medical devices containing natural rubber.

Latex Allergic Reactions

When experiencing an allergic reaction to latex, the severity of the reaction varies depending on the length of exposure. The least severe type of reaction, classified as a non-allergenic skin reaction, is irritant contact dermatitis. This reaction is typically caused by the chemicals present in latex gloves, and is characterized by itching, burning, scaling, dryness, and lesions.

Allergic contact dermatitis displays similar reactions as irritant contact dermatitis – burning, itching, dryness, scaling, and lesions – but is produced by a delayed reaction to the additives used in latex processing. This type of reaction is classified more severely because it can affect additional parts of the body and can last longer than irritant contact dermatitis.

The third type of latex reaction is titled immediate allergic reaction, or latex hypersensitivity. This type of reaction can produce conjunctivitis – pink eye – cramps, hay fever-like symptoms, hives, and severe itching. In rare cases, these symptoms may advance to include tremors, difficulty breathing, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, anaphylactic shock, or, more dangerously, death.

Latex Allergy Diagnosis and Treatment in Metro Atlanta

If a patient suspects a latex allergy, medical doctors at the Center for Allergy & Asthma of Georgia perform skin tests testing the diagnosis. A latex allergy is typically diagnosed in people who either experience allergic reaction symptoms while being exposed to latex or natural rubber or are at risk due to repeated exposure to latex with positive blood or skin test results.

While there is no known cure for a latex allergy, there are treatment methods available depending on severity. If a patient is experiencing either irritant or allergic contact dermatitis, certain prescription medications can be recommended to relieve symptoms. However, if there are severe symptoms associated with latex hypersensitivity, immediate hospital care is required.

The risk of developing a serious latex allergy increases with every exposure, so it is recommended to remove all latex or natural rubber products from the living environment. By following certain precautions, many activities can still be enjoyed. Items to avoid in the home include:

• Toothbrushes with rubber grips or handles
• Rubber sink mats or sink stoppers
• Pens with rubber coating or comfort grips
• Clothing with elastic bands containing rubber
• Tub toys made with rubber

While removal and replacement of latex products can be daunting, it alleviates additional triggers associated with a developing latex allergy.

Find Treatment for Latex Allergies

The Center for Allergy & Asthma of Georgia in Metro Atlanta offers patients expert advice and treatment for latex and rubber allergies. Locations are convenient to all of metro Atlanta, including offices in Alpharetta, Villa Rica, Carrollton, Peachtree City / Fayetteville, Newnan, Acworth / Kennesaw, Smyrna/Vinings and Douglasville. We have a no wait policy to ensure you receive care as soon as possible. If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with a board-certified allergist, call (404) 994-3574.