Latex is obtained from the tree Hevea brasiliensis. A wide variety of healthcare and household products with latex. A latex allergy is when a person has a reaction to latex.
Those who are most at risk of having latex allergies are healthcare workers, children with spina bifida, and others who have regular contact with latex.
How can latex allergies affect me?
Symptoms are mild for most people with a latex allergy. They include an itchy rash, runny, sneezing and itchy watery eyes. This occurs when latex meets the mouth, nose, genitals or inside the body during surgery (mucosal surfaces). Other problems may occur with other kinds of contact, such as latex gloves, balloons or condoms, or when latex particles are in the air – for example, from powdered latex gloves or balloons.
If you have a latex allergy, you may need to:
- be aware of the main dangers
- avoid all unnecessary contact with latex
- carry a MedicAlert bracelet or a latex allergy warning card
- seek urgent medical assistance if you have a severe reaction.
We will advise you about which of these is necessary for you.
What contains latex?
Many consumer and healthcare products contain latex. ‘Stretchy’ rubber products (gloves, balloons, condoms and elastic bands) are more likely to contain latex than ‘hard’ ones (tyres), which contain very little latex.
Find out more about latex products, including a list of alternative non-latex products, on the Latex Allergy Support Group.
Latex allergy in a healthcare setting
Many items in a hospital, clinic or dental surgery contain latex. Latex gloves are widely used as they give good protection against infection. All healthcare professionals are aware of the risks of latex allergy and have policies in place to identify those at risk and to care for them safely.
Notify us immediately if you have a latex allergy, so you are not examined by anyone wearing latex gloves. Alternatives should be available, but we recommend you have a pair of non-latex gloves.
Find out more about how hospitals should plan your care safely.
In some cases, latex allergies can cause some serious reactions including wheezing and in some rare cases, anaphylactic shock (very serious reaction, which may be life-threatening).
If you are one of the few patients who are at risk from anaphylactic shock, we will give you tell you to carry an EpiPen with you. Ensure you regularly check its expiry date and make sure you know how to use it in an emergency.
Some people with latex allergy also react to certain fruits and vegetables (bananas, kiwi, avocado, tomato and potato). This is because these foods and latex contain similar proteins which can cross-react. Reactions may also be caused by any food that has been handled by people wearing latex gloves (for example, in restaurants and food packing facilities), however, this is uncommon.
Allergy team contact details
Fulham wing/South block, Fulham Road
Tel: +44 (0)20 7351 8892
Fax: +44 (0)20 7351 8949