Latex is a material utilized in many different products. Due to the widespread use of latex gloves by healthcare professionals to stop the spread of blood-borne infections, latex allergies have grown significantly since the 1980s.
In latex allergy, the immune system produces a type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) that recognizes the latex protein. These IgE antibodies coat mast cells within the body, including in the skin, nose, lungs, and stomach, and, when latex is encountered, release substances like histamine that cause symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Histamine is released from mast cells in IgE-mediated allergic responses to latex exposure. In turn, this may cause hives (urticaria), swelling (angioedema), itching, and flushing symptoms. When the latex protein binds to the cornstarch powder used in powdered gloves, it can also become airborne, resulting in sneezing, runny and itchy eyes, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath when inhaled.
Latex allergy reactions can be life-threatening for people who are especially susceptible to it, or in circumstances where there has been extensive exposure. If you are prone to severe responses, seek medical attention right away after being exposed.
A delayed form of allergic reaction – called contact dermatitis – can also be brought on by other chemicals used to create latex-containing items, such as gloves. With delayed reactions, only the area of skin that was in contact with the latex develops a blistering rash, typically 12-48 hours after exposure. This may resemble a poison ivy rash. These reactions, while uncomfortable, are not life-threatening, and do not pose a risk of developing an IgE-mediated reaction in the future.
Examining your medical history, symptoms, and latex exposure are all important factors in determining whether you have a latex allergy. Skin tests may be advised by your allergist to track reactions to latex extract. A negative skin test may need to be followed up with a blood-based allergy test. A challenge test may also be advised in some cases to confirm a latex allergy.
Patch testing can be performed to diagnose delayed contact latex allergies. These tests involve applying a standard panel of chemicals included in frequently used latex products to the patient’s back for 48 hours. A red, raised, and occasionally blistering rash appears after a positive test if allergens are detected.
Four Steps to Relief
Planning Your First Visit
Schedule an appointment at your local office and fill out our pre-registration and medical history forms to help minimize any wait time when you arrive.
Your First Visit
Your initial visit will last between two and three hours and consist of an initial consultation, evaluation, and comprehensive exam. We’ll create a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs.
Diagnostics and Testing
We may complete one or more tests to better understand the cause of your symptoms. Common tests include skin testing, pulmonary testing, and blood testing.
Following the evaluation and testing, we’ll provide a comprehensive diagnosis and implement a personalized treatment plan that will deliver relief.
Since there is no specific cure for allergies to latex, avoiding products containing latex materials is the mainstay of treatment. An antihistamine can also be helpful for mild allergy symptoms. Epinephrine can be administered for more severe reactions and kept on hand in case of exposure. Those at risk of developing these more severe allergic reactions should also carry identification to alert any responders of anaphylaxis risk in case of an emergency.
For contact dermatitis, once specific triggers have been detected through testing, it is possible to identify what products to avoid and what alternative products may be safe for you to use. If symptoms recur, antihistamines can alleviate itching and steroid creams can speed up the healing process.
The Allergy Partners Difference
Our doctors at Allergy Partners have extensive training and expertise in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of various allergic conditions, including latex allergies. Your Allergy Partners physician will analyze your medical history and prescribe the necessary testing to confirm a latex allergy or contact sensitivity. Together, you and your allergist will create a thorough and individualized treatment plan that caters to your unique needs.