Health Library

Latex Allergy

Latex Allergy

Latex is a rubber product made from the sap of rubber trees. Some people become allergic to proteins in natural rubber latex. 

Signs and Symptoms of Latex Allergy

Some children may have contact sensitivity to latex. This causes them to get an itchy, bumpy, red rash where they have skin contact with latex. This is called a “contact dermatitis reaction”. It should be prevented by avoiding skin contact with latex. It can be treated with steroid ointments.

Other children may have an immediate-type allergic reaction to latex.

Allergic reactions can be seen when products made from latex come in contact with the child's skin, mucous membranes in the mouth, genitals, bladder, rectum, internal mucosal surfaces, or the bloodstream (during surgery). Some children may also react when blowing up a rubber balloon or breathing in powder from the inside of latex gloves.

When a child with a latex allergy comes in contact with a latex product, they can have these symptoms:

  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • Flushing of the skin or a skin rash
  • Itching of the skin
  • Swelling of the skin

Severe reactions may also occur. Get emergency treatment right away for any of these symptoms:

  • Problems breathing
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Faintness

The symptoms of a latex allergy may look like other medical conditions. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

Incidence of Latex Allergy

Some children are more likely to become latex sensitive. These are children who have frequent exposure to latex from medical procedures. This includes:

  • Children with spina bifida
  • Children with complex genitourinary disease
  • Children with chronic indwelling medical devices made of latex (such as nasogastric tubes, G-tubes, or suprapubic catheters)
  • Children who have had many surgeries

Children who have allergies to certain foods may also have a latex allergy. Both the foods and the latex may have some of the same proteins. Some common foods which contain some of the same proteins as latex include:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Chestnuts
  • Kiwi
  • Stone fruits

Common Latex Hospital Items

Many items at home, in the community, and in a hospital may contain latex. These include, but are not limited to: (All of the items used at Cincinnati Children's are latex safe.)

  • Surgical and exam gloves
  • IV tubing injection sites
  • Catheters
  • Adhesive tape
  • Electrode pads
  • Blood pressure cuffs
  • Tourniquets
  • Stethoscopes
  • Crutch tips, axillary pads
  • Bed sheet protectors called Chux
  • Elastic bandages
  • Wheelchair tires and cushions
  • Ace Wraps
  • Medication vials

Any item that can be stretched may contain latex. The items that are listed can be replaced with items made from vinyl, plastic, or silicone.

Common Latex Items

Many items at home, in the community, and in a hospital may contain latex. These include, but are not limited to: (All of the items used at Cincinnati Children's are latex safe.)

  • Balloons
  • Pacifiers and bottle nipples
  • Beach and water toys
  • Toys (Stretch Armstrong, old Barbies)
  • Infant toothbrush massager
  • Rubber and tennis balls
  • Hand grips on racquets, bicycles, and tools
  • Art supplies (paint, glue, erasers)
  • Dental products (mouth guards)
  • Dental dams
  • Sport shoes and rubber clothing (raincoats, elastic on underwear, and socks)
  • Disposable diapers
  • Zippered plastic storage bags
  • Kitchen cleaning gloves
  • Condoms, diaphragms
  • Rubber bands, Band-Aids®

Preventing a Latex Allergy Attack

  • Avoid all latex products at home and in the hospital (use items that do not have latex in them).
  • Ask the doctor to evaluate your child for pre-medication before surgery to help prevent a reaction.
  • Use a MedicAlert™ bracelet or necklace.
  • Carry a pair of non-latex gloves, information about latex allergies, and/or a note from your child's doctor.
  • Be sure hospital, dentist, and school records have a latex allergy alert.
  • Teach your child to know and avoid latex products.
  • Ask the doctor about the use of injectable epinephrine for your child in the event of an emergency.
    • Have it available for your child in all of their surroundings (at home, in the car, at daycare).
  • Know what to do in case of an emergency (discuss this with your child's doctor and school nurse).
  • Avoid areas where your child may inhale latex molecules such as: tire stores, dental offices where latex gloves or rubber dams are used, etc.

Inform Your Child's Caregivers If:

  • Your child has ever had any type of reaction to a latex product
  • You think your child has had a reaction to latex
  • Your child has an unexplained allergic reaction during an operation

Your child's caregivers include dentists, physical / occupational therapists, physicians and nurses, teachers, daycare providers and babysitters, and friends and family members.

Call your doctor or the ;Allergy Division at Cincinnati Children's at 513-636-4589 if you have other questions.

Last Updated 03/2019

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