What is natural rubber latex?

It is a milky fluid comes from the rubber tree. Rubber is made by extracting this milky fluid called latex from the rubber tree where it is chemically treated to get the desired features.

What is latex allergy?

Latex Allergy results from the reaction of the immune system to certain proteins present in natural rubber latex.

What are the products which may contain natural rubber latex?

A) Natural rubber products in houses:

  • Dishwashing gloves
  • Sanitary pads
  • Balloon
  • Hot water bottles
  • Rubber toys
  • Rubber nipples for bottle feeding of children.
  • Swimming glasses
  • Condom and vaginal barrier

B) Natural rubber products in health care facilities:

  • Medical gloves
  • Sphygmomanometers and ventilators
  • stethoscope
  • Intravenous tubes
  • Medical needles
  • Surgical masks

Who is most vulnerable to latex allergy?

The incidence rate among health care personnel is higher than that of the general population, reaching 17%. It is believed that increased use of rubber gloves may be the main cause behind developing serious allergic reactions to latex in this group of people. Statistically, it is estimated that 5-10% of the general population are allergic to latex.

Others who are at increased risk of developing latex allergy are:

  • Patients with food allergies associated with latex allergies.
  • Children with some congenital defects such as: spina bifida. More than half of this group are allergic to latex because they are exposed to rubber at a very early age as a result of direct contact with health care products containing latex.
  • Patients who need frequent medical procedures such as urinary catheterization, and therefore exposed to medical gloves, which increases the possibility of developing latex allergy.
  • Child care providers, food service workers or others who must wear rubber gloves in their jobs.
  • Persons working in rubber factories.

What are the symptoms of latex allergy?

Allergy symptoms occur after exposure to products containing natural rubber latex. The symptoms vary from mild or moderate to severe, depending on the degree and type of the patient’s allergy and the amount of latex to which he exposed.

Mild or moderate symptoms:

  • Itching or scratching
  • rash

Severe symptoms:

  • Sneeze and runny nose
  • Itchy and watery eyes.
  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Wheezing.
  • Cough

More-severe symptoms

Signs that threaten human life and require emergency treatment:

  • Swelling of the throat causing difficulty breathing.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Acute hypotension.
  • Dizziness or faint.

Diagnosis of latex allergy:

When latex allergy symptoms appear, your doctor will:

  • a)Review your medical history. He will ask about the symptoms, how they occurred, and how long was the time between exposure to rubber latex and the appearance of symptoms.

  • b) b) Make a clinical examination:

    To check if there are any other abnormal signs.

  • c) Make necessary tests, namely:

    - Skin test: The skin is pricked with small amounts of allergens found in natural rubber latex. If the person suffers allergy, the diagnosis is made through the appearance of a rash in the same place of prick.

    - Blood test: A test which measures the immune system respond to natural rubber latex by measuring the antibodies to the allergens in the blood known as IgE.

Latex allergy treatment:

In case of latex allergy, symptoms may be treated, but allergy itself cannot be treated.

- Treatment of moderate allergy symptoms

Medications such as antihistamines may reduce symptoms of minor allergies. These medications are taken after exposure to natural rubber latex to control latex allergy symptoms.

- Treatment of severe allergy symptoms:

In case of severe allergy, emergency intervention is required through injecting the body with epinephrine under supervision of a doctor. The patient also needs oxygen and corticosteroids.

Prevention of latex allergy:

The best way to treat latex allergy is to prevent it by:

  • Choosing alternative gloves made of synthetic rubber.
  • Avoiding inhaling latex at work or when someone else wears a starch-containing glove.
  • Telling your dentist or health service provider about your latex allergy.
  • Wearing a medical alert identification (a card or bracelet) which says that you are allergic to latex.
  • Allergic persons who may undergo severe symptoms should carry epinephrine autoinjector for emergency use.