October 1-7 is Latex Allergy Awareness Week aiming to raise understanding about the condition. It can cause a range of allergic reactions in individuals exposed to latex-containing products. Latex Allergy can be a serious and potentially life-threatening concern occuring when the immune system mistakenly identifies latex proteins as harmful invaders, leading to an immune response. This response releases chemicals such as histamine, triggering allergic symptoms.
Latex allergy was unusual until the late 1980s when more healthcare workers began using powdered latex gloves to control infections. In the 1990s, manufacturers found ways to make gloves with synthetic latex and/or powder-free, so the number of new cases has decreased. 1
Latex allergy can manifest in various ways, and the severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:
- Skin reactions: Itchy, red, and swollen skin, often referred to as contact dermatitis, can occur when latex comes into direct contact with the skin.
- Respiratory symptoms: Inhaling latex particles or airborne allergens can lead to symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
- Eye irritation: Contact with latex can cause red, itchy, and watery eyes, resembling allergic conjunctivitis.
- Anaphylaxis: In severe cases, a latex allergy can trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, drop in blood pressure, swelling of the throat and tongue, and loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention.
MANAGING LATEX ALLERGY
- Avoidance: The most effective way to manage latex allergy is to avoid latex-containing products. This includes latex gloves, condoms, balloons, and certain medical devices. Choose latex-free alternatives whenever possible.
- Allergen labeling: Be vigilant about reading labels on products to identify any latex content. Look for “latex-free” or “non-latex” labeling.
- Carry an epinephrine auto-injector: If you have a severe latex allergy, your doctor may prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) for emergency use in case of anaphylaxis.
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1. Latex Allergy https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/conditions-library/allergies/latex-allergy