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Latex Allergy

What is a latex allergy?

Latex is made from a milky fluid that comes from the rubber tree. It is used to make many products used at home and in healthcare, like gloves.

A latex allergy is a reaction by the immune system when your child has contact with a product made with latex.

What is the cause?

If your child is allergic to latex, his or her body reacts to proteins in the latex as harmful and tries to protect itself against it.

Your child may be more likely to have a latex allergy if he or she has had a lot of medical procedures.

Some foods contain proteins similar to the proteins in latex. If your child has allergies to these foods, your child may be more likely to have a latex allergy. Foods having proteins most similar to the proteins in latex are bananas, avocado, kiwi, and chestnuts.

What are the symptoms?

If you think your child is allergic to latex, it is important to get a diagnosis from your healthcare provider or allergist. Symptoms can develop over several hours or they may start right away and be severe. They may include:

  • Skin reactions, such as itching, hives, eczema, or swelling
  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or itching around the mouth
  • Runny nose, wheezing, or trouble breathing
  • Fast heartbeat

It is also possible to have an allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock. This is a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction. The reaction is sudden and severe and involves the whole body. Symptoms of a severe reaction include:

  • Rash or hives
  • Swelling of the lips, face, or throat
  • Trouble breathing, often with wheezing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fainting

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. Your child may have a blood test.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for latex allergy symptoms. If your child is having a mild skin reaction, you may be able to treat it with steroid cream.

If you think your child is having a severe reaction, take your child to the emergency room or call 911 for help. A severe reaction usually needs to be treated with shots of medicine.

How can I take care of my child and prevent a latex reaction?

  • Teach your child to know what things may contain latex and how to avoid them. Any item that can be stretched may contain latex. Examples of products that may contain latex are:
    • Many kinds of gloves
    • Baby care items such as pacifiers, bottle nipples, and disposable diapers
    • Some clothing items like sport shoes, raincoats, and elastic on underwear
    • Dental dams used during dental procedures
    • Some tapes and bandages
    • Medical supplies such as iv tubing, catheters, blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, and medicine bottles
    • Rubber balloons (mylar balloons are OK)
    • Toys such as tennis balls, beach and water toys, and the hand grips on racquets and bicycles
    • School, office, or craft supplies, like paint, glue, rubber bands, and erasers
    • Zippered plastic storage bags
    • Rubber conveyer belts at store checkout stands

    There are many things made from vinyl, plastic, or silicone that can be used instead of latex products.

  • If your child has had a severe reaction, your provider may prescribe an epinephrine emergency kit. These shot kits contain ready-to-use syringes of the medicine epinephrine. Parents or caregivers of children who have severe allergic reactions may carry the shot kits in case of emergency. If a child has a severe allergic reaction, a shot of this medicine can counteract allergy symptoms until the child gets medical care. The kits are not intended as the sole treatment of an allergic reaction. Rather, they "buy" time while you wait for emergency help. Ask your child's healthcare provider about this.
  • If you have an epinephrine shot kit, check the expiration date for the medicine and replace it as needed to make sure it will work.
  • Make sure your child wears a bracelet or necklace that warns of your child’s allergy and tells what to do in case of an emergency. Tell all who care for your child what they should do if your child has a severe reaction.
  • Tell all of your child’s healthcare providers, teachers, daycare providers, babysitters, friends, and family members that your child has a latex allergy. Make sure that medical and school records have a latex allergy alert.
  • Tell your child’s dentist that your child is allergic to latex and make sure the allergy is noted in your child’s chart.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-10-05
Last reviewed: 2012-07-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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