You have latex allergy. This means you're sensitive to natural rubber latex. When you're exposed to latex, your body's immune system views it as a harmful substance and attacks it. In severe cases, this can cause symptoms that can threaten your life if not treated. The best way to prevent symptoms is to avoid latex. Below are some tips on how to do this.
Common products that contain latex
Latex can be found in many products. Protect yourself by not using these products, if possible. Some common products that contain latex include:
- Condoms and diaphragms
- Elastic on clothing
- Rubber bands
- Bath mats and rugs with rubber backings
- Baby bottle nipples
- Rubber toys
- Certain medical equipment, such as IV tubing, syringes, and stethoscopes
Note: Some latex products, such as gloves, may be lined with powder. This powder can send latex particles into the air. If these particles are breathed in, this can cause symptoms.
Safe substitutes for latex
Many products that contain latex have safe substitutes. The following products can be used in place of latex ones:
- Powder-less, synthetic (nonlatex) or vinyl gloves
- Mylar, vinyl, or plastic balloons
- Polyurethane or sheepskin condoms (note that sheepskin condoms do not prevent the spread of STDs such as HIV)
- Silicone diaphragms
- Latex-free bandages
- Latex-free rubber bands
- Bath mats and rugs with vinyl or foam backings
- Silicone, vinyl, or plastic feeding nipples and pacifiers
- Plastic or cloth toys
- Not everyone reacts in the same way to the same latex products. Gloves, balloons, and condoms cause symptoms most often. Even if your symptoms are mild, you should still avoid exposure to any latex products. This is because your allergy can worsen with increased exposure to latex.
- Be on the lookout for hidden latex. For instance, when you eat out, ask whether they use latex gloves to handle or prepare food. Also, when you go to your dentist or doctor's office, hair salon, or florist, ask whether they use latex gloves.
- Read labels before using any products to make sure they are latex-free.
- Certain foods contain proteins that are like the proteins found in latex. These foods include bananas, kiwis, and avocados. If you have a latex allergy, it's common to also have an allergy to these foods. Ask your doctor whether you should remove any of these foods from your diet.
To learn more about latex allergy, try the resources below:
- American Latex Allergy Association, 888-972-5378, www.latexallergyresources.org
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments.aspx