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Spina Bifida Association of Delaware

What Is Latex Allergy?

Latex allergy can result from repeated exposures to proteins in natural rubber latex through skin contact or inhalation. Reactions usually begin within minutes of exposure to latex, but they can occur hours later and can produce various symptoms. These include skin rash and inflammation, respiratory irritation, asthma, and in rare cases shock.

The amount of exposure needed to sensitize individuals to natural rubber latex is not known, but reducing exposure to latex proteins have been reported to be associated with decreased sensitization and symptoms. People at increased risk for developing latex allergy include workers with ongoing latex exposure, persons with a tendency to have multiple allergic conditions, and persons with spina bifida. Generally, the Spina Bifida population has been exposed to latex at an early age (usually since birth) due to various surgeries that our children need to have. Latex allergy is also associated with allergies to certain foods such as avocados, potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, chestnuts, kiwi fruit, and papaya. If latex allergy is diagnosed, avoiding these foods is important.

How Large a Problem is Latex Allergy?

Reports of work-related allergic reactions to latex have increased in recent years, especially among employees in the health-care industry, where latex gloves are widely used to prevent exposure to infectious materials. Studies indicate that 8-12% of health-care workers regularly exposed to latex are sensitized, compared with 1-6% of the general population, although total numbers of exposed workers are not known. In the health-care industry, workers at risk of latex allergy from ongoing latex exposure include physicians, nurses, aides, dentists, dental hygienists, operating room employees, and laboratory technicians.


1. Learn to recognize the symptoms of latex allergy: skin rashes; hives; flushing; itching; nasal, eye, or sinus symptoms; breathing difficulties; and shock.

2. If you develop symptoms of latex allergy, avoid direct contact with latex gloves and products until you can see a physician experienced in treating latex allergy.

3. If you have latex allergy, consult your physician regarding the following precautions:

  • Avoiding contact with latex gloves and products.

  • Avoid areas where you might inhale the powder from latex gloves worn by others! Remember, inhaling latex proteins from latex gloves is harmful, even if you do not touch the gloves!

  • Tell your employers, physicians, nurses, and dentists that you have latex allergy.

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet.
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