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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 balloons, toys, and gloves.

An allergy is the body’s reaction to a substance that is normally harmless. With a latex allergy, your child’s body sees latex as harmful or foreign and the immune system reacts to the latex.

What is the cause?

The immune system is the body's natural defense against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances. Before your child can have a reaction to a particular substance, the immune system must first be sensitive to it. Usually this means the body has to have been exposed to the substance at least once before. Once it is sensitive to it, the body will react every time your child has contact with the substance.

Your child may be more likely to have a latex allergy if he or she has:

  • Had a lot of medical procedures.
  • Allergies to foods with proteins similar to the proteins in latex. These foods include apples, avocados, bananas, carrots, celery, papayas, melons, potatoes, and tomatoes.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can develop over several hours or they may start right away. Symptoms of a mild allergy may include:

  • Sneezing, stuffy or runny nose
  • Itching, a rash, or hives (raised, red, itchy areas on the skin)
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction may include:

  • Severe trouble breathing, including wheezing
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Hives
  • Pale, cool, damp skin
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling intense fear that something terrible is about to happen
  • Drowsiness, confusion, or fainting

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child. A blood test can show if your child is allergic to latex.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for latex allergy symptoms. If your child is having a mild skin reaction, your child’s healthcare provider may recommend a steroid cream to decrease symptoms.

Your child’s provider may prescribe an emergency kit for a severe allergy to latex. It contains a ready-to-use injection of epinephrine. Epinephrine relaxes the muscles in your child’s airways and throughout their body. It is usually given as a shot. Your child may need more than one shot to decrease symptoms. If your child is known to have a serious reaction, the provider may want your child to carry an emergency kit. Your child or someone with them can give the shot. Whether or not your child has epinephrine, call 911 or your local emergency services right away for all severe allergic reactions.

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

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. In addition:

  • 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
    • Some tools used during dental procedures
    • Some tapes and bandages
    • Medical supplies such as IV tubing and catheters
    • Condoms
    • 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.

  • Ask your healthcare provider if your child should avoid foods such as bananas, avocados, kiwi fruit, and chestnuts.
  • If your child was prescribed an emergency kit, have him carry it at all times. Use it as directed by your child’s provider. Check the expiration date for the medicine and replace it as needed to make sure it will work. Teach teachers, daycare providers, babysitters, friends, and family members how to help your child during a severe reaction.
  • Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that warns of the allergy and tells what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Tell all your child’s healthcare providers, including the dentist, that your child is allergic to latex and make sure the medical records have a latex allergy alert.
  • Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-11-04
Last reviewed: 2014-09-18
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.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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